Though you wouldn’t know it from watching NBC’s Olympic coverage, snowboarder extraordinaire Shaun White was sued in 2016 for sexual harassment by a member of his band and wound up settling out of court in May of last year.
The lawsuit against White went largely unmentioned over the first week of competition as the 31-year-old chased (and on Tuesday obtained) his third Olympic gold medal, until Tuesday night, when a reporter at his press conference asked White if he was concerned about the harassment charges tarnishing his legacy. White’s response? “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip.”
The reporter then attempted to ask a follow-up question but was silenced by a moderator.
— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
Naturally, many people were unimpressed with White waving away as “gossip” charges that he forced a bandmate to watch porn, demanded she dress more provocatively and refused to pay her. The comment seemed to suggest that White did not take the allegations seriously, despite having acknowledged them in a settlement.
On Wednesday morning, White appeared on NBC’s TODAY and apologized for his choice of words.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip,'” White said. “It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today. I’m just truly sorry. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience, but yeah.”
White went on to explain that he is a “much more changed person than I was when I was younger,” referring to the harassment he allegedly committed at age 29.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word gossip. It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today.” @shaunwhite on his remarks at news conference when asked about harassment case pic.twitter.com/5q9jyCL61m
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2018
You can choose whether to accept White’s apology or view it as a craven PR play, but at least the allegations against him have finally become part of the public conversation.