The first openly gay American to qualify for the Winter Olympics has hit out at anti-LGBT Vice President Mike Pence.
Adam Rippon, 28, was named as one of three male figure skaters who will skate for the US in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.
Donald Trump’s deputy Mike Pence is now set to lead the US delegation in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Responding to the announcement on USA Today, Rippon said: “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.”
“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon said of Pence.
“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 okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shitholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
As Governor of Indiana, Pence stood in the way of expanding HIV services and preventative measures like needle exchanges – until he was forced to declare a public health emergency in 2015 due to a sharp rise in transmissions.
He has since attempted to deny supporting gay cure therapy, while many supporters of the practice admit they see an ally in the Vice President.
Rippon said that if he were offered the chance to meet the VP after performing, he could be interested to talk – but only if Pence had an open mind.
“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said.
“He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump.But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up.
“Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
Four years ago, President Barack Obama asked several openly-gay athletes to serve on the U.S. delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies in Sochi, including tennis legend Billie Jean King.
“I think the move that President Obama made was very poignant and it was right in the midst of the huge controversy of gay propaganda being illegal in Russia,” Rippon said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay efforts.
Asked if he was being a poor representative of his country by rejection Pence, he said: “No, I’m a U.S. athlete representing my country. I will continue to share my story, but I will participate in no form of protest.
“I’m representing myself and my country on the world stage. I have a lot of respect for this opportunity.
“What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018 and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”
It isn’t the first time the athlete has condemned the Trump administration.
Asked by the BBC what he thinks of the US President, he said: “I think it’s important that we stand up for what we believe in and we speak out against things that we think are wrong and unjust.”
Rippon also slammed the Commander in Chief’s language after Trump reportedly referred to a string of African countries as “s***holes”.
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He said: “If I talked to people the way that President Trump talks to people, my mom would kick my ass.”
As well as being the first out gay man to compete for the US in the Winter Olympics, the 28-year-old will also be the oldest American figure skater since 1936.
“I think in this day and age, it’s so important for you to be proud of who you are,” Rippon told reporters last week.
“I can’t believe I am where I am today. I was just a little gay kid in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania.
“Growing up I didn’t have a lot of role models. I said if I was ever given a platform and had a chance I would share my story.”
Not that his sexuality should make a difference – “I was recently asked in an interview what its like to be a gay athlete in sports,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I said that it’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eye brows.”