Pence’s press secretary tries and fails to make a liar out of Olympic figure skater


The vice president’s press secretary says champion figure skater Adam Rippon was not telling the truth about Pence having been an advocate for gay conversion therapy. He absolutely was.

Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary elevated the power of a championship figure skater's valid criticism of Pence this week by responding to it with petulant, unfounded accusations.

Adam Rippon, the first openly gay Winter Olympian, ripped Pence on Wednesday for his history of supporting anti-LGBT policies — especially “gay conversion therapy”— saying he doesn't even want to meet Pence next month when he leads the U.S. delegation at the Olympic Games in South Korea.

“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 response, Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, claimed Rippon was completely wrong: "This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact." Her emailed statement to USA Today continued, "Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang."

The thing is, Rippon is not misinformed.

Conversion therapy is a discredited practice in which gay people are forced to undergo needless and often painful procedures to “cure” them of their gayness. Often administered by religious groups and including everything from electric shocks to verbal abuse, the practice has been banned in several states and is denounced by nearly all legitimate medical and mental health groups. One survivor recounted, “We were no longer people at the end of the program.”

When Pence originally ran for Congress in 2000, his platform called for cutting funds from HIV/AIDS treatment and diverting it to groups "which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." It is hard to explain what Pence could have meant by that other than conversion therapy.

Nor does anything in the rest of Pence’s career indicate sympathy for LGBTQ America. As governor of Indiana, he enacted a sweeping law allowing businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians, prompting a furious backlash that forced him to relent.

As USA Today’s Christine Brennan notes, “Never thought I’d see the day when the Vice President of the United States feels the need to answer criticism by a figure skater, but here we are.”

Pence lacks the moral courage to own up to his shameful record. But whatever his press secretary might say, Rippon is happy to remind him.