Donald Trump Jr. isn't the only one grumbling about figure skater Adam Rippon's comments on Mike Pence. Bristol Palin, oldest daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, also chimed in to criticize Rippon for rejecting a meet-and-greet with Vice President Pence. It's customary for Team USA athletes to meet with a head of state prior to the Olympic Games.
"The cool thing for athletes to do now, apparently, is to snub any invitations to the White House in order to take a stand against the Donald Trump administration," Bristol Palin noted in a blog post for Patheos.
To jog your memory of how the whole Rippon and Pence debacle began: In a interview published Jan. 17 in USA Today, Rippon commented on his distaste for Pence leading the 2018 U.S. Olympic delegation. When asked for his thoughts, Rippon said, "You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it."
Rippon is the first openly gay figure skater to represent the United States at the Winter Games. Pence, who disapproves of federal funding for HIV/AIDS treatment for low-income Americans, said that resources should be redirected from organizations that "celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus" to "institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."
People have widely interpreted Pence's statement as a roundabout way of saying the federal government should fund "gay conversion" therapy. This discredited form of therapy attempts to "cure" LGBTQ people of their sexual orientation with methods that include prayer, humiliation, and electroshock. It is legal in 41 states, despite experts from the country's leading health and counseling organizations denouncing gay conversion therapy.
In the Jan. 17 interview, Rippon said he did not want to meet Trump's right-hand man before the Winter Olympics, but was open to a conversation after his competition. He added that Pence had not made an effort to befriend a gay person. According to USA Today:
I don’t think [Pence] has a real concept of reality. To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he’s OK with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called "sh*tholes," I think he should really go to church.
Pence’s press team refuted that the vice president has ever supported gay conversion therapy. The vice president then reportedly requested a one-on-one meeting with the 28-year-old skater, which Rippon rejected. Pence's press team denied the vice president made a request to meet Rippon, saying it had been only an "offer."
In her blog post, Palin wrote, "In today’s crazy political climate, it’s nice to be kind — even if we have different political views." She also added, "I hope one day Adam and the Vice President have a chance to sit down together."
Palin mentioned Pence's effort to "reach out with kindness," referring to Pence's tweets after the supposed snub from Rippon:
Like Palin, President Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., commented on the ongoing saga. He wrote a snarky tweet that turned out to be false.
A day prior Rippon's short program in the men's individual event Thursday evening, the figure skater seemed to have brushed off the media focus on his politics and non-relationship with Pence, claiming it wouldn't be a distraction from his top priority, his skating competition.
Rippon skated a crowd-pleasing routine in the short program. His clean skate put him in seventh place, enabling Rippon to go into the free skate on Saturday as the top-scoring American.