USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan on Thursday stood by her report that Vice President Pence’s office sought to meet with U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, despite denials from Pence’s office.
“This is one of the easiest sourced reporting jobs I have ever had in 35 plus years of journalism. This was a no-brainer. There was not even a shred of doubt — there should never be as a journalist, but this one, absolutely rock-solid from the nature of my sources and the knowledge that they had about Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally The Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out 'Justice for J6' organizer calls on demonstrators to respect law enforcement MORE and his interest in wanting to talk to Adam Rippon,” Brennan said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Brennan on Wednesday reported for USA Today that Pence’s staff requested Rippon meet with the vice president after the athlete criticized Pence as the pick to lead the U.S. delegation.
Pence’s office, however, pushed back against the story, calling it false.
“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,” deputy chief of staff Jarrod Agen said in a statement.
The Vice President’s office said it reached out to the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee to note it didn’t want to distract Rippon, but wanted to convey that his claims Pence supported gay conversion therapy were inaccurate.
Brennan had previously spoken with Rippon, who was the first openly gay U.S. athlete to be named to a Winter Olympic team, about Pence and the Trump administration.
“I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up,” Rippon said. “Mike Pence doesn’t really stand for anything I believe in.”
Rippon last month said he didn’t support the decision to send Pence to lead the U.S. delegation at Friday’s opening ceremonies, saying that the vice president backed “gay conversion therapy.”
Pence's office later indicated they offered to clarify in a meeting between Rippon and a member of staff or the vice president that Pence does not support gay conversion therapy.
On Thursday, Pence appeared to address the claims on Twitter.
“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!” Pence tweeted.
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! #FAKENEWS. Our athletes are the best in the world and we are for ALL of them! #TEAMUSA— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 8, 2018
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.
Pence will lead the U.S. delegation alongside the top U.S. general in South Korea and other military and diplomatic officials.
Updated Feb. 8 at 2:47 p.m.