Donald Trump Jr. has feuded with a lot of people on Twitter, from Jimmy Kimmel to Joy Reid. But his latest dispute is with a 2018 Olympian.
That Olympian is Adam Rippon, a 28-year old figure skater who is representing the United States at the Olympics. Rippon is making history this year; he’s the first openly gay athlete from the United States to qualify to compete in the Winter Olympics.
Here’s why Trump Jr. is feuding with this Olympian on Twitter, and why he’s receiving so much flack for his tweet.
Rippon criticized Vice President Mike Pence before the Olympics
In an interview with USA Today in January, Rippon said he did not approve of the White House selecting Mike Pence to lead the U.S. Olympic delegation. “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”
He’s referring to the fact that while Pence was running for Congress in 2000, he said he supported federal funding for institutions that assist those “seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Pence, through a spokesperson, has denied supporting gay conversion therapy. Still, over the years, Pence has said that being gay is a choice and that gay marriage would bring about societal collapse. He also signed a law in Indiana allowing business to refuse to serve gay customers.
In the interview, Rippon also stated that he has no interest in meeting Pence before his event at the Olympics, both because the Vice President thinks gay people are sick and because he has stood by many of the controversial comments Donald Trump has made.
However, Rippon did say he wouldn’t be opposed to meeting with Pence after competing, saying that “there might be a possibility to have an open conversation.”
Next: How Mike Pence responded to those comments.
Pence reportedly tried to arrange a meeting with Rippon
In response to Rippon’s comments, a spokesperson for Pence told USA Today that the athlete’s criticisms have no basis in fact. After the comments received widespread attention, Pence reportedly decided he wanted to meet with Rippon and asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to set up a conversation.
However, Rippon reportedly declined this meeting, just as he said he would in his original interview. Pence’s office subsequently denied all of this, but Rippon’s agent confirmed to The New York Times that he was contacted by Pence’s office for a meeting.
The agent suggested, however, that Rippon didn’t decline in protest, but rather because “his mind is on training, competing and doing his best to represent the U.S. going into the Olympics.” Rippon would be open to revisiting the request after competing, his agent said.
Next: This was Mike Pence’s next step.
Pence reached out to Rippon on Twitter, saying he was being distracted by fake news
After this attempt to arrange a meeting was apparently unsuccessful, the vice president reached out to Rippon on Twitter. Tweeting directly at Rippon, Pence said, “I want you to know we are FOR YOU.” Pence went on to suggest that Rippon was misinformed in his beliefs about him. He told Rippon not to let the “fake news” distract him because he is proud of “ALL OF OUR GREAT” athletes.
In another tweet, Pence complained that the fake news was trying to “sow seeds of division” by distorting an 18-year-old nonstory. This is presumably referring to Pence’s quote about gay conversion therapy, which came during his 2000 congressional race.
Next: Rippon criticizes Pence again, this time at the Olympics.
Rippon called out Pence again after his Olympic debut
On Feb. 12, 2018, after helping the U.S. win a bronze medal in the figure skating team competition, Rippon was interviewed by ABC News. At first, he sounded like he didn’t want to talk about Pence, but he went on to again criticize him.
“I personally don’t have anything to say to Mike Pence,” Rippon said. “I’m very lucky because legislation that he’s pushed hasn’t affected my life at all.”
Rippon explained that he decided to speak out against Pence because “there are people out there whose lives have been affected by change that he’s tried to make. I spoke out for them because right now I have a voice and I think it’s really important for me to use it. That’s a conversation for them.”
Next: The comments Rippon made that inspired Donald Trump Jr. to respond.
He said he doesn’t want his Olympic experience to be about Pence
Later, on Feb. 13, Rippon said he doesn’t want his experience in the Olympics to be all about this feud with the vice president. “I don’t want my Olympic experience being about Mike Pence,” Rippon said, according to CNN.
However, Rippon did not really express regret for his comments themselves; he said he completely stands by them but just that he wants to focus on the Olympics right now.
“I can’t tone it down. I’m being me and being myself,” he said. “I’ve got so many messages from kids all over the country — I’m getting so emotional thinking about it — I think that’s why it’s so important.”
Next: The president’s son weighs in.
Donald Trump Jr. attacked Rippon in response to these comments
Now, the president’s son is getting involved in this whole ordeal. On Feb. 13, Donald Trump Jr. responded to a report from The Hill on Rippon’s comments that he doesn’t want his Olympic experience to be all about Pence.
Trump Jr. wrote, “Really? Then Perhaps you shouldn’t have spent the past few weeks talking about him. I haven’t heard him mention you once???”
Next: Why Trump Jr. received flak for this tweet.
Trump Jr. was criticized for this inaccurate tweet
Trump Jr. did not exactly receive widespread support for his tweet. For one, a lot of people were surprised to see the president’s son attacking an Olympic athlete like this, even if it was in response to that athlete criticizing the vice president. “Nothing more patriotic than taunting a US Olympic athlete during the Olympics,” comedian Ike Barinholtz wrote.
But in addition to that, the tweet is also not accurate. Trump Jr. said that he hasn’t heard Pence mention Rippon once, apparently having missed when Pence tweeted directly at Rippon and repeatedly suggested that the athlete was misinformed and being deceived by fake news.
Rippon has not responded to Trump Jr.’s tweet. However, he did respond to Barinholtz’s tweet about Trump Jr. being unpatriotic with a hilarious gif of Wendy Williams drinking tea.
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