Vice President Mike Pence sent a tweet to Adam Rippon this week, after reports had surfaced that the Olympic figure skater had turned down a meeting with him.
Tension began in January when Rippon, an openly gay Olympic athlete, was asked by USA Today how he felt about Pence leading the U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea on February 9.
"You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I'm not buying it," Rippon replied.
And in response to Rippon's statement, Pence's press secretary told the publication, "The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America's incredible athletes. This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang."
Rippon told reporters after a practice session Thursday (via Reuters), "I don't want to distract from the competition or make this too much for my competitors and my teammates." He then added, "After the competition I‘m open to meeting him and having an open conversation, but opening ceremonies are tomorrow and I've been really focused."
During his talk with USA Today last month, Rippon said, "I'm not trying to pick a fight with the vice president of the United States." And he also stated then that he might consider meeting with Pence after the Olympics.
"If I had the chance to meet him [Pence] afterwards, after I'm finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation," Rippon told the publication.
Amid reports that Rippon had turned down a meeting with Pence, the vice president's chief of staff and communications director issued a statement, denying the claims.
However, according to USA Today, "...a White House official confirmed that the vice president's chief of staff Nick Ayers called U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun after Rippon had initially criticized Pence last month."
Adding, "Ayers offered to have someone from the vice president's team explain to Rippon the confusion over Pence's stance. Ayers also said that Pence would meet with Rippon or speak with him over the phone if he preferred, the White House official said."
Before heading to the Olympics this week, Pence wrote to his followers, "Headed to the Olympics to cheer on #TeamUSA. One reporter trying to distort 18 yr old nonstory to sow seeds of division. We won't let that happen! #FAKENEWS. Our athletes are the best in the world and we are for ALL of them! #TEAMUSA."
Pence then sent Rippon a tweet, ".@Adaripp I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don't let fake news distract you. 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!"