Following a USA Today report that claimed gay Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon had rejected an invitation to meet with him, Vice President Mike Pence channeled Trump in a series of tweets late Wednesday night. “Headed to the Olympics to cheer on #TeamUSA. One reporter trying to distort 18 yr old nonstory to sow seeds of division. We won’t let that happen!” he wrote, adding: “[Adam,] I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you.” Rippon, an active Twitter user, has not yet responded to the vice president’s tweets as of this writing.
Soon after the initial USA Today story dropped, Pence’s communications director, Jarrod Agen disputed the claim entirely. “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 US athletes in the Olympics and is hoping they all win medals,” he said. According to USA Today, however, “Pence’s team did contact the U.S. Olympic Committee” to offer “a meeting with Rippon and wanted to give the skater as much space as possible.”
This all came about when Pence and his team first caught wind of comments Rippon made to NBC News in January. Reacting to the announcement that the vice president would lead the U.S. delegation to Pyeongchang, Rippon said, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.” The vice president subsequently issued a statement to USA Today saying any claims he had ever supported conversion therapy were “totally false.” While Pence never actually discussed the controversial practice, his 2000 campaign website mentioned realocating resources to “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”