Olympic Athletes Should Keep Politics Out of the Games

    Christian Whiton

    Politics, Asia

    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan

    Vice President Pence is being unfairly attacked. 

    Mike Pence is back in America after leading the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics, where he stood up for the human rights of those oppressed by the North Korean regime—an important part of U.S. diplomacy. To listen to much of the media, however, his visit was a disaster. Pence wasn’t just attacked for refusing to make nice with the representatives of the North Korean regime, which, incidentally, much of the Western press fawned over. Two gay athletes on the U.S. Olympic Team attacked Pence as being anti-gay. One even told a British paper he wouldn’t go to the traditional White House welcome-home ceremony for the team.

    It began last month, when Adam Rippon, a gay figure skater on the U.S. team, complained to USA Today that Pence was leading the delegation, remarking, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.”

    Going beyond his expertise at split twists and upright spins, Rippon also offered a psychological and religious assessment of the vice president: “I don’t think he has a real concept of reality. 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… I think he should really go to church.”

    Of course Pence attends church regularly. But who lets facts get in the way when extra publicity is in the offing? The assertion that Pence supports gay-conversion therapy emerged on social media during the height of the 2016 campaign. As evidence, the attackers offered a line that appeared on Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign website, which supported federal funding for people “seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In context, it’s clear the obscure reference is in support of programs to reduce sexually transmitted infections, not to turn gays into straights.

    Those who smear Pence also cite his support for religious freedom and past opposition to gay marriage—conveniently overlooking that Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton all opposed gay marriage for just as long as it was politically opportune to do so. Unlike Clinton, Pence did not give an impassioned speech against gay marriage on the floor of the Senate.

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