Vice President Mike Pence’s bumbling tour of PyeongChang saw yet another newsworthy update on Saturday.
The head of the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics, Pence has been a mainstay of headlines around the start of the Games.
His presence at Friday’s Opening Ceremony saw reports of his openly snubbing efforts of diplomacy between North Korea and South Korea in private while showing a public display of disrespect to the host nation when the two Koreas marched as one during the ceremony.
His icy behavior toward South Korea’s diplomatic efforts was preceded by domestic strife when gay U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon scoffed at the selection of Pence — a politician with a well-established track record of anti-LGBT policy — as the leader of the U.S. delegation.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it,” Rippon told USA Today’s Christine Brennan.
Brennan, who has stayed on top of the Pence-Rippon rift, reported that Pence requested a meeting with Rippon after those comments, a meeting that Rippon turned down. Rippon has said publicly that he’s open to a meeting with Pence after the Games, but does not want to distract from his experience and competition in PyeongChang.
Either miffed at having his request denied or not wanting to acknowledge to his evangelical Christian base that he was willing to sit down for a conversation with a gay man, Pence denied the report that he requested the meeting, leaning on the trite White House mantra of “fake news.”
.@Adaripp I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ‘em!
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 8, 2018
That tweet was accompanied by an official denial of the request from his office to USA Today.
“The vice president’s office did not reach out to set up a conversation with Mr. Rippon,” communications director Jarrod Agen said. “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.”
More evidence mounted on Saturday that Pence did in fact request that meeting and appeared to have his office lie about it after the fact.
Rippon’s agent David Baden told Brennan in a phone interview that Pence’s team reached out to request a “direct conversation” with the skater.
“That was 100 percent true. We were contacted by the appropriate channels that the Vice President wanted to talk to Adam. … Adam said he gave it a lot of thought and understood who was asking for the meeting. He said now is not the time for this, I’m really getting into my training mode, I want to represent my country the best I can.”
Pence’s team did not respond in the USA Today story to the latest confirmation of the request, and Pence has not responded on Twitter.
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