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Shaun White dismissed the sexual misconduct allegations made against him in a 2016 lawsuit as “gossip” and hurried away from reporters trying to ask him more about the allegations Wednesday, just hours after winning his third gold medal in the men’s halfpipe.
White has been the world’s dominant snowboarder for more than a decade, winning gold medals in 2006, 2010 and again this year, completing a comeback after finishing fourth in 2014.
As White was competing, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit by a former drummer in White’s rock band, the Bad Things. Lena Zawaideh said White sexually harassed her and refused to pay her wages after he fired her. The lawsuit was settled in May for an undisclosed amount.
White was asked if the allegations might tarnish his reputation. “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
Reporters attempted to follow up about the lawsuit, but U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Event Director Nick Alexakos shut them down.
White immediately left the stage following the conference while reporters continued to question him. “I have to get to the medal ceremony,” he said as Alexakos ushered him away.
Phone calls and an email to Zawaideh’s attorney from the lawsuit were not immediately returned.
In the lawsuit, Zawaideh said White repeatedly sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and told her how to get her hair cut. The lawsuit included screen grabs of text messages allegedly sent by White asking about the haircut and suggesting she wear a provocative outfit.
The Bad Things signed with Warner Bros. Records in 2013. The rock group released a self-titled album in January 2014 and toured briefly.
Praise for White’s performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse.
When speaking with Today‘s Savannah Guthrie live in Pyeongchang later, White apologized for using the word “gossip” to describe the allegations.
“I am 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,” he said. “I was so overwhelmed and just wanted to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”
Guthrie admitted that she takes no pleasure in asking him about this, but pressed him on the subject.
“I’ve grown as a person over the years,” he said. “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.”
Feb. 14, 5:50 a.m.: Updated with Today appearance
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