U.S. Swim Team member Ryan Lochte fell on his verbal sword during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that started airing over the weekend. The entire interview airs during Monday’s “Today” show.
“I’m taking full responsibility,” Lochte said. “I over-exaggerated that story. If I hadn’t done that we wouldn’t be in this mess. None of this would have happened. It was my immature behavior.”
Lochte and teammates Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and the University of Georgia’s Gunnar Bentz were returning from a party in Rio a week ago when their cab stopped for a bathroom break. In a lengthy statement released Friday night, Bentz said the guys made the dumb decision to relieve themselves outside, near some bushes.
Then, Bentz’ statement continues, Lochte banged up a sign for some reason, then feuded with security guards who responded with badges displayed and guns drawn. The swimmers paid about $70 and were on their way.
“Whether you call it a robbery or extortion or us paying just for the damages, we don’t know,” Lochte said. “All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money. There was a gun pointed in our direction. We were frightened. We gave them money, and we got out.”
Lochte’s initial depictions of what happened were greatly embellished. He told NBC at the time the swimmers’ taxi was pulled over by gunmen who pressed a weapon to Lochte’s head and demanded money. The story unraveled as authorities investigated. Bentz and Conger were taken off a plane for questioning before being allowed to leave. Feigen had to pay a “donation” of about $11,000 before authorities let him leave the country.
“When you saw the news coverage of Gunnar and Jack being taken off that plane at the airport and you knew they didn’t damage anything in that airport, you’re home safe and sound, how did that make you feel?” Lauer asked Lochte.
“Hurt,” Lochte responded, his voice catching. “I let my team down. I wanted to be there. I don’t want them to think that I left them. I wanted to help out any way I could. I just wanted to make sure they were home safe before I came out and talk.”