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Shaun White apologizes after referring to a sexual misconduct suit against him as 'gossip'

U.S. men's snowboarder Shaun White attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018
Ker Robertson | Getty Images
U.S. men's snowboarder Shaun White attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018

Shaun White apologized for comments he made earlier Wednesday, when the Olympic gold medalist was asked about sexual misconduct allegations made against him in a 2016 lawsuit.

White initially dismissed the allegations as "gossip" and hurried away from reporters, just hours after winning his third gold medal in the men's halfpipe.

In a later interview with NBC's "Today," however, White apologized for his remarks and said he is a "changed person."

"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," White said.

He added that he feels that he's "grown as a person."

"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," White told the "Today" show. (See the complete interview here.)

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, Bad Things. Lena Zawaideh said White sexually harassed and refused to pay her wages after he fired her. The lawsuit was settled in May for an undisclosed amount.

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

The lawsuit also 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 says White tried to kiss Zawaideh at a Halloween party.

Bad Things signed with Warner Bros. Records in 2013. The rock group released a self-titled album in January of 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.

CNBC contributed to this report.

(Disclosure: Comcast's NBCUniversal unit is parent of NBC and CNBC.)