In his first sit-down interview since the Rio de Janeiro robbery scandal that rocked the world of international sports, Ryan Lochte spoke with Matt Lauer Saturday to defend his innocence, though he acknowledged he "over-exaggerated" the details of a story he told Brazilian authorities about allegedly being robbed at gunpoint last week.
In the clip, Lauer reminds a visibly uncomfortable Lochte (who has returned his hair to its natural brown) that in a previous interview, Lochte explicitly referred to himself as a “victim,” and asks him how he feels about the Rio police department’s description of him as a “vandal.”
Lochte, for his part, says "it's how you wanna make it look like,” but that all he knows is “there was a gun pointed in our direction, and we were demanded to give money,” referring to teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen, who were allegedly with Lochte during the incident.
"We were all frightened," Lochte tells Lauer.
Lauer, who was having none of Lochte's equivocation, points out the monumental discrepancies in his story, reminding him that his first description of the incident paints Lochte as a victim in the "mean streets of Rio," while later accounts proved that Lochte and his teammates paid security guards for damages they caused to a gas station as a "negotiated settlement to cover up some dumb behavior."
"And that's why I'm taking full responsibility," Lochte replies.
Twitter users created the hashtag #LochteGate over conflicting reports of the event that Sunday evening. Originally, Lochte said that he and his teammates left a party outside the confines of the Olympic village in a taxi, when they were stopped by individuals who posed as armed police officers. The "officers" allegedly demanded money and other personal belongings from Lochte and co. at gunpoint, robbing the group after ordering them to get down on the ground.
In a second clip Lochte continues to apologize for his actions and starts to tear up. "I let my team down," he says. "I don't want them to think I left and left them dry."
Brazilian authorities, not buying Lochte's account of the story, tried to highlight inconsistencies among varying reports; they attempted to seize Lochte’s passport so he couldn’t leave the country, but Lochte had already returned to the U.S.
On Saturday, Al Roker went berserk on live television, telling viewers that Lochte "lied to Matt Lauer" and "lied to his mom."
"He left his teammates hanging while he skedaddled," Roker said. "There was no robbery. There was no pull over. There was nothing. Nobody cocked a gun to his head. He lied."
Lochte issued a statement via Instagram on Friday to "apologize for [his] behavior-- for not being more careful and candid in how [he] described the events of that early morning."