Five-ring Circus

Shaun White Calls Sexual Harassment Allegations “Gossip,” Then Apologizes for “Poor Choice of Words”

U.S. gold medalist Shaun White poses during the medal ceremony for the snowboard men’s halfpipe final on Wednesday at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
U.S. gold medalist Shaun White poses during the medal ceremony for the snowboard men’s halfpipe final on Wednesday at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Snowboarder Shaun White apologized on Wednesday for calling sexual harassment allegations made against him “gossip” at a news conference following his first-place finish in the men’s halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The allegations against White resurfaced this week when Slate and other outlets reported on the media’s silence regarding a sexual harassment complaint filed by Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer in his band Bad Things. White denied the allegations in the complaint but admitted to sending her explicit text messages. The parties reached an undisclosed settlement in May 2017.

When asked about the allegations at the post-event news conference, White dismissed the question.

“You know, honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip,” he said. “I am who I am, and I’m proud of who I am. My friends, you know, love me and vouch for me, and I think that stands on its own.”

When White was asked a follow-up question about his description of the incident as “gossip,” a U.S. Ski and Snowboard communications official insisted that the questioner move on. White added: “I feel like I addressed it.”

Speaking to Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s Today on Wednesday morning, the three-time Olympic gold medalist appeared to have a change of heart:

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. I’m just truly sorry. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.

CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan called White’s news conference “abysmal” and noted that several women who had raised their hands were never called on for questions. (Press officials with U.S. Ski and Snowboard said the decision not to call on a single woman was not “intentional.”)

One of the United States’ most recognizable and accomplished Olympians, White said during his press conference that he didn’t think the harassment claims would tarnish his legacy. During his interview with Guthrie, he added:

It’s amazing how life works and twists and turns and lessons learned. 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. I’m proud of who I am today.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Why Isn’t NBC Talking About the Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Shaun White?

Shaun White Is a Flawed Champion. NBC Turned Him Into a Faultless Snow God.

Chloe Kim Is a New Kind of Olympic Hero

Jaime Dunaway

Jaime Dunaway is a Slate intern.