During a press conference following his gold medal win Wednesday at the 2018 Winter Olympics, snowboarder Shaun White dismissed 2016 allegations that he sexually harassed a musician named Lena Zawaideh, with whom he played in a band, as “gossip.”
ABC News’ Matt Guntman asked White, “Shaun, over the past couple of days, the sexual harassment against you by Lena Zawaideh have resurfaced. Are you concerned that they are going to tarnish your legacy?”
“You know honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not, you know, gossip. But, uh, I don’t think so. 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 Guntman followed up with an attempt at clarification, the moderator shut him down and called to move onto the next question. The next reporter called on said he was “going to ask the same question.” The AP reports that then “White rushed off stage as reporters questioned him about the allegations following the conference.”
On Twitter, USA Today’s Christina Brennan reported that no woman journalist was called on at the conference:
White made a swift apology, or an attempt at one at least, on Wednesday’s episode of Today, following the press conference.
“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. And I’m just truly sorry, and um, I was so overwhelmed by just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience but yeah.”
White added that he’s grown as a person since the allegations.
According to Brennan’s USA Today piece, “As Shaun White cements legacy, why so little attention paid to sexual harassment allegations?,” Zawaideh’s civil suit alleged White “sent her images of erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing human fecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks about her relationship with her boyfriend.” He allegedly put his hands down his pants and tried to make Zawaideh smell them, threatened her with violence, and imposed rules on her physical appearance.
White acknowledged offending text messages, saying, “I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit.” The case was eventually settled out of court.