His remarks got under Mike Pence's skin. So the VP asked to meet. It … didn't work out.
Adam Rippon (left) and Mike Pence (right). Photos by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

As the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for the winter Olympics, figure skater Adam Rippon has a lot of things on his plate right now — chief among them, prepping for his performances in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

One item that won't make his to-do list? Meeting Vice President Mike Pence.

Rippon made waves last month for blasting Pence for his bigoted views on LGBTQ issues after it was announced the vice president would be leading the U.S. delegation in the Games' opening ceremony on Feb. 9.



“You mean Mike Pence — the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.


The vice president has been under fire from LGBTQ rights advocates for once supporting so-called "gay conversion therapy" — a dangerous practice that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation. Pence has denied ever endorsing the practice. Yet, his 2000 congressional campaign website read "resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."

Rippon's not the only Olympian who's criticized the decision to make Pence the country's delegation leader. Openly gay skier Gus Kenworthy called the move "strange."

“To have somebody leading the delegation that [has] directly attacked the LGBTQ community ... just seems like a bad fit,” he recently explained to Ellen DeGeneres. “I feel like the Olympics is all about inclusion and people coming together, and it seems like it’s not really doing that.”

Rippon also challenged the vice president's faith in his interview with USA Today, wondering how a "devout Christian" could possibly stand by President Trump:

“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 ‘shitholes,' I think [Pence] should really go to church."

Pence was so troubled by Rippon's remarks, a new report in USA Today claims, that his staff reached out to the 28-year-old to meet in South Korea.

Rippon, however, didn't bite. The figure skater turned down a meeting with the vice president.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

Rippon had said previously he may be open to meeting with Pence after the competition overseas. But for now, Rippon has medals to focus on.

Much of the internet rejoiced in Rippon's decision.

Some people chimed in that they were "so happy" Rippon decided to refuse a meeting.

"Can someone contact the International Olympic Committee?" another Twitter used wrote. "They need to give Adam Rippon the first medal of the 2018 Olympic Games."

While some agreed with Rippon on LGBTQ rights, they argued advocating for the queer community in front of Pence could be "a good thing."

But plenty of others pointed out that Pence's request could easily be a ploy at positive public relations.

"Our gay ferocious prince doesn’t owe that grinning goblin shit," quipped Louis Virtel.

Rippon is in South Korea to win medals for Team USA, after all — not carve out time for bigotry.  

"I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon told USA Today. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that."

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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