This is Olympian Adam Rippon — a self-proclaimed “glamazon bitch” and aspiring “America’s sweetheart.”
He’s the first openly gay American man to qualify for the winter games. So — on top of his bronze-winning performance and viral one-liners — the historic nature of his qualifying has put an extra-bright spotlight on his stay in South Korea.
Also, he’s not a fan of Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence was chosen by the White House to lead the U.S. delegation at the games. Rippon — noting the vice president’s support for anti-LGBTQ public policies — wasn’t on-board. “You mean Mike Pence — the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” the 28-year-old quipped to USA Today in January. “I’m not buying it.”
Many people have applauded Rippon’s openly queer presence at the games and his candidness when it comes to politics. Donald Trump Jr. hasn’t been one of them.
After Rippon told reporters in South Korea he doesn’t “want [his] Olympic experience being about Mike Pence,” the president’s son went on the offensive.
“Really?” Trump Jr. tweeted. “Then perhaps you shouldn’t have spent the past few weeks talking about him. I haven’t heard him mention you once???”
Clearly, Trump Jr. hadn’t Googled before tweeting, because his remark isn’t all that accurate. In interviews in South Korea, Rippon has largely focused on the games and his performances, only mentioning Pence when asked about the vice president directly by reporters.
At the same time, Pence certainly has mentioned Rippon.
Pence has helped fuel the perception of an ongoing feud between the vice president and Olympian.
Rippon’s remarks blasting Pence’s past support for gay conversion therapy seems to have gotten under the V.P.’s skin. His press secretary Alyssa Farah responded to the accusations by Rippon as “totally false,” with “no basis in fact.”
As The New York times reported in 2016, Pence’s congressional campaign website from 2000 clearly stated his support for the dangerous practice. It read: “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
That didn’t stop the vice president from brushing off Rippon’s accusations and deeming the story “fake news.” “[Rippon], I want you to know we are FOR YOU,” the vice president tweeted on Feb. 7. “Don’t let fake news distract you.”
Pence also reportedly went through the extraordinary step to set up a meeting with Rippon as well, but the Olympian — much to fanfare of LGBTQ advocates everywhere — declined the offer. (Pence’s office denied the vice president attempted to arrange a face-to-face, but Rippon’s agent said the reports claiming otherwise were “100% true.“)
If Pence wanted this story to die in January, he’s certainly done a terrible job extinguishing the flames.
In the wake of Trump Jr.’s tweet, actor Ike Barinholtz called out the president’s son for causing a distraction.
“Nothing more patriotic than taunting a U.S. Olympic athlete during the Olympics,” he wrote on Twitter.