U.S. Olympic men’s figure skater Adam Rippon declined an invitation to speak with Vice President Mike Pence in the wake of critical comments Rippon, one of the first openly gay U.S. Winter Olympians, made about the vice president, according to a report.
Pence's staff asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to arrange a discussion between the vice president and Rippon after the vice president read the remarks the U.S. Olympic athlete made about him in an interview with USA Today.
Sources told USA Today that Rippon turned down the offer.
The vice president's office disputes the report.
"The USA Today report is false and should be corrected. The Vice President's office did not reach out to set up a conversation with Mr. Rippon. As we've said before, the vice president is supporting all the U.S. athletes in the Olympics and is hoping they all win medals," Jarrod Agen, Pence's deputy chief of staff, said in a statement.
Rippon had spoken out against the selection of Pence to lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which start this week.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversation therapy?” the Team USA athlete told USA Today in an interview published last month.
Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for the vice president, refuted the claim that Pence backs gay conversation therapy.
“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes,” she said last month. “This accusation is totally false and has no basis in face. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”
Rippon, 28, said Pence “doesn’t really stand for anything that I really believe in,” but conceded the vice president appears more “mild-mannered” than President Trump.
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” he said. “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 ‘shitholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
Rippon said at the time he wouldn’t “go out of my way” to meet Pence during a meet-and-greet with the U.S. delegation before the opening ceremonies, but said during last month’s interview there was a “possibility” of having a conversation with Pence if he were to meet the vice president after competing.
The men’s figure skater said last week he is “not trying to pick a fight with the vice president of the United States.”
Pence has received criticism from athletes on Team USA, in addition to Rippon.
During an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on Monday, U.S. Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy said Pence was a “bad fit” to lead the U.S. delegation.