PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Feb 14, 2018, 10:35 PM ET

White apologizes for comments on sexual misconduct lawsuit

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Shaun White apologized after dismissing the sexual misconduct allegations made against him in a 2016 lawsuit as "gossip" shortly after winning his third Olympic gold medal in the men's halfpipe.

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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 Wednesday, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit by a former drummer in White's rock band, 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.

PHOTO: Chloe Kim
SLIDESHOW: Best photos from the 2018 Winter Olympics: Day 4

White was asked during a news conference 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 news conference while reporters continued to question him.

"I have to get to the medal ceremony," he said while being ushered away by Alexakos.

White later said on NBC's "Today" show he used "a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject."

PHOTO: U.S. Shaun White competes to win the final of the mens snowboard halfpipe at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Shaun White competes to win the final of the men's snowboard halfpipe at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"I'm just truly sorry," he said. "I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience."

White also said he's "grown as a person over the years" and is "proud of who I am today."

Zawaideh's attorney said in a statement Thursday the comments the snowboarder made at the news conference "directly impugn" Zawaideh's character. Lawrance Bohm from The Bohm Law Group said "Zawaideh believed that this matter was in the past" but "unfortunately, by his recent comments and conduct, Mr. White has minimized the problem of sexual harassment in this country."

Bohm said Zawaideh would not comment herself.

PHOTO: U.S. Shaun White celebrates on the podium during the victory ceremony after the final of the mens snowboard halfpipe at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 14, 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Shaun White celebrates on the podium during the victory ceremony after the final of the men's snowboard halfpipe at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 14, 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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 screengrabs of text messages allegedly sent by White asking about the haircut and suggesting she wear a provocative outfit.

The lawsuit said White grabbed Zawaideh's buttocks shortly after leaving a band practice and that he once shoved a bottle of vodka into her mouth and forced her to drink from it. It also said that "White stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them." The lawsuit also said White tried to kiss Zawaideh at a Halloween party.

PHOTO: Gold medal winner Shaun White, of the U.S., celebrates after the mens halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 14, 2018.Lee Jin-man/AP
Gold medal winner Shaun White, of the U.S., celebrates after the men's halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 14, 2018.

Bad Things signed with Warner Bros. Records in 2013. The 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.

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More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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This story has been corrected to characterize the allegations in the lawsuit as sexual misconduct instead of sexual assault.

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  • Realpshep

    The slu ts are lying.

  • 40words

    Why is this a headline here?

  • miguel

    Once Shaun announces his hatred for Trump the MSM will throw him a parade and never ask about that nasty business again.

  • sadie220

    I am having a hard time understanding why anyone would bring up this when he just won the gold medal. Do we stop this crazy train at some point? Also forcing to have a hair cut and to drink and watch porn? Shaun possibly had no shortage of women volunteering. He is young and attractive and successful.

  • 40words

    I've seen many women expose their places of employment to legal action, about equal to number as men. To be very fair, that type of stupidity isn't gender specific.

    As far as this settled lawsuit for misconduct...time to move on.

  • E Sverdrup

    I think this is important. I was excited for Mr White but it doesn’t excuse sexual harassment, especially if it affects someone’s employment. Hopefully he is mature enough to address this publicly. We all make mistakes and learn from them. That is what the public needs to hear.

  • Steve L

    I can't blame the guy, that is what it is, crap gossip. This was settled already. What is the point of bringing up old news. Leave it to ABC to try to ruin a good moment in US Olympic History.

  • miguel

    Soon, women will be protesting because they can't find work any where men work.

  • miguel

    If Shaun White wants the MSM on his side all he has to do is bash Trump.
    Reporter : Shaun, what about these sex allegations?
    Shaun : Trump sucks!
    Reporter : Shaun, you are truly a great American and I am sure those allegations are a lie.

  • King Trump

    another example of women trying to hitch a ride on the back of a successful man.

  • virgillionhere

    In other news, Shaun White won the gold medal. Might want to mention that along with the dirty laundry

  • Rubber Banned

    I dont know about the sexual allegations, but he certainly doesn't know how to handle the flag between wearing it backwards like a cape and dragging it around on the ground. That was shameful. They should have a protocol staffer advise athletes on the proper way to handle the flag should they win and be handed one.

  • HamburgerHelperAgain

    So much for getting his picture on a box of Wheaties.

  • MandalayBay328

    OH FOR GODSAKE - Can we PLEASE for just TWO WEEKS stop talking about this? Its two tiny weeks out of the year. Why on Earth can't we just come together as one world, be peaceful and enjoy sportsmanship for just TWO WEEKS?!?!?!? Its not a lot to ask. There was NO NEED to bring up something that was settled two years ago. Im sick of this already.....

  • Endlessfoulu .

    "This story has been corrected to characterize the allegations in the lawsuit as sexual misconduct instead of sexual assault."

    This is just highlights some of the issues when people report on or circulate these stories. There is a huge difference between misconduct and assault.

  • 40words

    Hard to read too much into a settlement about allegations of misconduct.

  • Rudi Stein

    Forced her to watch p o r no graphy? I envision something like Alex in Clockwork Orange being strapped down and the eyelids clamped back, while Shaun stands next to her periodically dripping solution in her eyes

  • John Springer

    If she did cut her hair, didn't leave the band and didn't break off relationship with Shaun , then it would seem she was complicit and willingly went along.

  • Tertulliano

    He accidentally stepped on the American flag while dragging it.

  • miguel

    Shaun should sue the MSM for racism. They call him the Flying Tomato because of his complexion. If there was a black snowboarder and I called him the Flying Raisin I'd have to go to sensitivity training and apologize and grovel.

  • hkzombie1

    I always love American Olympic “heroes “. And would be so upset about people who try to tarnish their reputations. But this one, I believe all the accounts of Lena Zawaideh. When started working for Shaun since she was only 16 as his drummer. She has endured a lot over the years. There are details that couldn’t be made up.

  • danielle

    I think there was a valid complaint about the wages, but often i have seen sexual complaints added in order to get more money to stay silent.

    I have been in office settings where women would talk about their sexual escapes and it was far more graphic than any porn movie. The #metoo movement need to include all aspects of sexual harassment, not just the male bashing.

  • Equinoxsseven

    Why would ANY man talk to those two disgusting yentas on "Today".