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Adam Rippon’s mom says Olympian didn’t ‘refuse’ to meet with Pence

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The mother of a U.S. figure skater who has been critical of Vice President Pence on Thursday defended her son’s interaction with the vice president amid recent controversy.

According to Kelly Rippon, her son Adam did not “refuse” to meet with Pence, but he prefers not to do so before the upcoming Olympics competition.

“I believe that you can say it many different ways. I don’t think he ever said ‘I refuse to do that,’ because that suggests a tone of intolerance and inflexibility,” Kelly Rippon said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“He conveyed to whomever, I don’t know the individuals, that any kind of communication would have to be done after the competition is over,” she added.

USA Today reported Wednesday that Pence’s staff requested a meeting with Adam Rippon after he criticized Pence as the pick to lead the U.S. delegation, and that the athlete refused the meeting.

The vice president’s office denied the story, but columnist Christine Brennan stood by the report.

When asked if Pence sought a meeting, Rippon, the first openly gay athlete selected to a U.S. Winter Olympic team, told media oulets including the BBC that he didn’t want to distract his teammates and competitors.

“After the competition I’m open to meeting him and having an open conversation, but opening ceremonies are tomorrow and I’ve been really focused,” he said Thursday.

Rippon said last month that he disagreed with the Trump administration’s values. He added that Pence “doesn’t really stand for anything I believe in,” asserting that the vice president supported “gay conversion therapy.”

The vice president’s office has denied that Pence believes in “gay conversion therapy” and reached out to the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee asking to provide clarification to Rippon on his claims. Pence’s office said staff offered to meet directly with Rippon over the claim but did not request a meeting between Pence and the athlete.

“The USA Today report is false and should be corrected. As all these facts show, there was only one phone call from our office and it was not as portrayed by the USA Today report. As we’ve said before the Vice President is supporting all the U.S. athletes in the Olympics and is hoping they all win a medal,” deputy chief of staff Jarrod Agen said in a statement.

Pence, who will lead the U.S. delegation during Friday’s opening ceremony, addressed the claims in a tweet on Thursday, calling them “#FAKENEWS.”

When Pence ran for Congress in 2000, his campaign website contained language that said resources “should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Rippon and others have interpreted that as support for conversion therapy, but Pence’s office said it referred to support of legislation that funded AIDS prevention and safe sex policies.

Pence has long been seen as a top adversary to LGBTQ rights. As governor of Indiana, he signed a controversial religious freedom law that opponents said would have legalized anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Tags 2018 Winter Olympics Indiana LGBTQ Mike Pence Mike Pence

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