Political News

Olympian Rippon says he would now 'totally' speak with Pence

Posted February 23, 2018 12:17 p.m. EST

— Figure skater Adam Rippon said Friday he would now take a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence after reportedly turning down a conversation with him over his stance on gay rights.

Rippon, 28, and U.S. skier Gus Kenworthy, 26, are the first two openly gay Winter Olympic athletes representing Team USA.

"I was offered a phone call with the vice president that I decided not to take before the games," Rippon said on NBC's "Today" show on Friday morning. "I didn't take the phone call because I needed to focus on the competition."

Asked if he would now accept a call from Pence, Rippon replied, "totally," though he didn't provide an explanation for the change of heart. The Olympics are ending this weekend, and he told USA Today recently that he would consider meeting with Pence after the Games.

But he also stood by his previous criticism of Pence who, as governor of Indiana, signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, which allowed businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of religious freedom.

"I feel that Mike Pence doesn't stand for anything that I was taught when I grew up, and I think that it's important if you're given the platform to speak up for those who don't have a voice," Rippon said Friday.

A message left with the vice president's office Friday was not immediately returned.

Rippon criticized Pence last month for his stance on gay rights.

"You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?" Rippon said in a January 17 interview with USA Today. After making those comments, USA Today reported that Pence wanted to set up a conversation with the Olympian, but was turned down.

The White House has denied USA Today's reporting. Earlier this month, Pence told Rippon the US delegation was "for you," and warned him not to let the "fake news" distract him.

"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!" he told the athlete.