Pence Attacks Reporter Over Story About Gay Olympic Athlete Refusing Meeting

XXX during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at XXXX on February 7, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images AsiaPac

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday claimed that an American reporter’s story about an openly gay U.S. Olympic athlete who refused to meet with Pence was “fake news” deployed to “sow seeds of division.”

“One reporter trying to distort 18 yr old nonstory to sow seeds of division,” Pence, who is in South Korea leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympics this week, tweeted early Thursday.

He tweeted directly at U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, “We are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you.”

USA Today reporter Christine Brennan profiled Rippon last month and reported in a follow-up story on Wednesday that Pence reached out to Rippon after the January profile ran to arrange a meeting, but that Rippon declined.

Pence’s press shop pushed back on those reports, and his spokesperson Alyssa Farah told USA Today that Rippon’s “accusation is totally false” and has “no basis in fact.”

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Brennan said that she stands by her reporting.

In the January profile, Rippon was vocally critical of Pence’s selection to lead the U.S. delegation and cited Pence’s stance on LGBT rights.

“If it were before my event, 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 said in January.

When Pence was governor of Indiana, he signed into law the Religious Freedom Act, a controversial piece of legislation that allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers if it interfered with their religious beliefs.

In 2000, Pence’s congressional campaign website included a call for resources to be “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” language that was widely interpreted as a reference to conversion therapy, though Pence’s spokesperson in 2016 denied that it was.