Team USA figure skater Adam Rippon reportedly turned down an offer to take part in a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence just hours after the openly gay athlete slammed Pence's anti-LGBT policies and President Trump's comments about African countries.
Rippon had lambasted the vice president'sin an interview with USA Today published last month. Pence has been considered an opponent of the LGBT community after he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as governor of Indiana.
When asked about Pence's role in, Rippon responded to the outlet, "You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I'm not buying it."
"I don't think he has a real concept of reality," Rippon told the newspaper. "To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he's a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he's OK with what's being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called 'sh*tholes,' I think he should really go to church."
Rippon's initial criticism of Pence drew a sharp rebuke from his press secretary, Alyssa Farah, who called some of his statements "totally false" and that they had "no basis in fact."
USA Today, citing two people with knowledge of the situation, reports that a member of Pence's staff had requested a private conversation with the athlete after Rippon made the statements to the outlet.
Rippon later told reporters on a conference call that the quick response from Pence's office surprised him, but he was glad his concerns as an athlete and American citizen had been heard.
"Obviously yes, it surprised me. It surprised me a lot," he said, "but I'm glad. I'm glad my voice has been kind of heard. I mean, I was surprised, but I don't think it was a bad thing."
Rippon took to social media after his original comments, backing up his claims with what he called "the receipts" — links to statements and legislation that Pence has made or supported. He also said he had no interest in meeting Pence during a traditional meet-and-greet among delegation officials and U.S. athletes that takes place shortly before the opening ceremony.
Rippon said Monday that his focus remains on performing in Pyeongchang, where he will be competing in his first Olympics, and not engaging in any kind of social protest.
"I'm trying to train for the biggest competition of my life. I'm not trying to pick a fight with the Vice President of the United States," Rippon said, adding that he'd happily engage in dialogue with Pence once the competition comes to a conclusion.