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Shaun White apologizes for dismissing sexual misconduct allegations as 'gossip'

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) -- Olympic gold medalist Shaun White apologized on Wednesday for referring to sexual misconduct allegations against him as “gossip.”

“It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today,” White told NBC’s Today show later. “And, you know, I'm just truly sorry. And I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”

The Olympic snowboarder had earlier deflected questions by ABC News about a sexual misconduct lawsuit after his winning performance Wednesday in South Korea, where he offered the "gossip" explanation and tried to move on from follow-up questions during a news conference.

White, 31, won his third gold medal Wednesday morning in Pyeongchang -- adding to the medals he won in 2006 in Italy and 2010 in Canada.

His former Bad Things bandmate Lena Zawaideh sued White in April 2016, asking for what she said was unpaid salary after he allegedly fired her from the group that he started.

Zawaideh later added claims of sexual harassment to her suit, according to ESPN, saying White forced her to watch pornography and sent her text messages asking her to wear more provocative clothing. White reportedly reached an unspecified settlement with Zawaideh last year.

"Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics -- not, you know, not gossip," White told ABC News’ Matt Gutman before his apology. "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."

When asked by Gutman at Wednesday's news conference about the allegations affecting his legacy, White said, "I don't think so."

U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing spokesman Nick Alexakos then tried to turn the news conference back to the discussion of White's performance.

"I think we’re here to talk about the gold medal and the amazing day we had today," Alexakos said.

Gutman attempted to follow up, but White interrupted to say, "I feel like I addressed it."

USA Today columnist and ABC News commentator Christine Brennan noted that Alexakos took no questions from any female journalists.

"I understand that he would rather not talk about this, but I don't know that he gets to make that call,” Brennan told ABC News. "This 'Me Too' movement is a very significant, important part of American culture right now, and he now is in it.”

Zawaideh's lawyer, Lawrance Bohm, did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. White’s lawyers have always denied the allegations.

White is one of the most popular so-called alternative-sports athletes in the world. His net worth is estimated at between $20 million and $40 million, according to Money magazine, and he has endorsement deals from AT&T, Burton snowboards and GoPro cameras.

His Olympic snowboarding career may be over, but White said he plans to compete in skateboarding when the sport makes its debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

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