Adam Rippon: ‘I Don’t Want My Olympic Experience to Be About Mike Pence’

Adam Rippon is not backing down from a controversial comment he made about Vice President Mike Pence in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. Still, Rippon, who won a bronze medal during Sunday’s team competition, with two more chances to medal later on, doesn’t want that to be the focal point of his time at the Winter Games, he said in a news conference Tuesday.

The celebrated Pennsylvania-born figure skater – the first openly gay Olympian to compete for Team USA – expressed surprise that the comment had such staying power.

“When we did the interview for USA Today, you asked me a really simple question and I gave you a really simple answer,” he said to the USA Today journalist who had initially reported the story in January. “And that the vice president felt so passionately to speak out is I think a very interesting and unique experience that I’ve never gone through.”

In January, Rippon was candid when asked about for his opinion on Pence leading the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremonies.

“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” he was quoted as saying in the January 17th story. “I’m not buying it.” Upon catching wind of Rippon’s comment, Pence’s office allegedly extended an invitation for the Olympian to have a one-on-one chat with the vice president. Rippon reportedly declined, but said he was open to talking about the issues after the Olympics.

Following news of the nixed meeting, the vice president’s communication director, Jarrod Agen, released a statement denying that the invitation had ever been extended.

“I have no problem talking about what I’ve said because I stand by it,” Rippon said Tuesday. “But I think right now, the Olympics are about the competition and the athletes involved. I talked to you about how I felt before the Games [and] it’s brought a lot of attention and questions to my other teammates. I don’t want to distract from their Olympic experience, and I don’t want my Olympic experience to be about Mike Pence.”

Rippon added that though he’s received criticism for his statements, he doesn’t intend to filter his words going forward – if anything, he sees the importance of his newfound “platform” more clearly now than ever.

“In the past week, in addition to all the support I’ve gotten, I’ve heard a lot of people say, Adam Rippon should tone it down, and blah blah blah,” he said. “I can’t. I can’t tone it down. I’m being me and I’m being myself and I’d be doing myself an injustice and I’d be doing an injustice to those kids who don’t feel like they’re comfortable to be themselves. … I’ve gotten so many messages from young kids all over the country that my story’s resonated with them. It’s incredibly powerful this platform that you can have at the Olympic Games.”

In a tweet Tuesday, Rippon expressed the same sentiments in a more characteristically candid way.

“To all those who tweet at me saying they ‘hope I fail,’ I have failed many many times in my life,” he wrote. “But more importantly, I’ve learned from every setback, proudly own up to my mistakes, grown from disappointments, and now I’m a glamazon bitch ready for the runway.”