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Olympic gold medalist Shaun White deflected questions by ABC News about a sexual misconduct lawsuit after his winning performance today in South Korea, calling the allegations against him “gossip” and trying to move on from follow-up questions during a news conference.
He has since apologized for using the word “gossip.”
“It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today,” White told NBC’s “Today” show later. “And, you know, I’m just truly sorry. And I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”
He added that he has “grown as a person over the years” and that “every experience in my life, I feel like it’s taught me a lesson, and I definitely feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger.”
White, 31, won his third gold medal this morning in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to add to medals he won in 2006 in Italy and 2010 in Canada.
Zawaideh later added claims of sexual harassment to her suit, according to ESPN, saying White forced her to watch pornography and sent her text messages asking her to wear more provocative clothing. White reportedly reached an unspecified settlement with Zawaideh last year.
“Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not you know, not gossip,” White told ABC News’ Matt Gutman today. “I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am. And my friends you know love me and vouch for me and I think that stands on its own.”
When asked by Gutman at today’s news conference about the allegations affecting his legacy, White said, “I don’t think so.”
U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing spokesman Nick Alexakos then tried to turn the news conference back to the discussion of White’s performance.
“I think we’re here to talk about the gold medal and the amazing day we had today,” Alexakos said. “Thank you, so if we don’t have another question why don’t we go ahead and just pass the mic.”
Gutman attempted to follow up, but White interrupted to say, “I feel like I addressed it.”
USA Today columnist and ABC News commentator Christine Brennan noted that Alexakos took no questions from any female journalists.
“I understand that he would rather not talk about this, but I don’t know that he gets to make that call,” Brennan told ABC News. This ‘me too’ movement is a very significant, important part of American culture right now and he now is in it.”
Zawaideh’s lawyer, Lawrance Bohm, did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. White’s lawyers have always denied the allegations.
White is one of the most popular so-called alternative sports athletes in the world. His net worth is estimated at between $20 million and $40 million, according to Money magazine, and he has endorsement deals from AT&T, Burton snowboards and GoPro cameras.
His Olympic snowboarding career may be over, but White said he plans to compete in skateboarding when the sport makes its debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.