Olympian Shaun White tried to dismiss questions about sexual-harassment claims against him as “gossip” on Wednesday after winning an historic third snowboarding gold medal.
But hours after that contentious Olympic press conference, the snowboarder apologized on NBC’s Today show.
He has been accused of groping and sending explicit text messages to Lena Zawaideh, a drummer and longtime member of his rock band, Bad Things.
According to USA Today, Zawaideh’s lawyers filed a complaint seeking punitive and compensatory damages, alleging that White “repeatedly sexually harassed [Zawaideh] and forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years.”
Zawaideh also claimed White forced her to watch “sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing human fecal matter.”
Eventually White and Zawaideh reached an undisclosed settlement.
At a press conference in Pyeongchang—during which no female reporters were selected to ask questions—ABC News reporter Matt Gutman asked whether the allegations would tarnish White’s legacy.
“I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” White said. “I don’t think so—I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am and my friends love me and vouch for me and I think that stands on its own.”
U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Event Director Nick Alexakos admonished Gutman for not sticking to questions about the competition.
But Gutman followed up, asking if White really considers the allegations “gossip.”
“I’d like it to be addressed just a little bit,” said Gutman.
“I feel like I addressed it,” White said, between sips of water.
When Alexakos tried to move on, the next reporter said, “I was going to ask the same question, so.”
Hours later, White was forced to broach the subject on the Today show.
“I’m truly sorry that I chose the word ‘gossip,’” he said. “It was a poor choice of words to describe a sensitive subject in the world today. I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about the news today.”
When Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb pressed him to discuss the allegations further, he said, “I feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger.”