Ryan Lochte to Matt Lauer: Rio Controversy Is Because of My ‘Immature Behavior’

Matt Lauer ryan Lochte
Matt Lauer speaks with swimmer Ryan Lochte of the United States on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Harry How/Getty Images

Ryan Lochte sat down with Matt Lauer on Saturday, August 20, to discuss the gas station vandalism incident in Rio de Janeiro, which the swimmer and some of his teammates initially characterized as a robbery at gunpoint.

"It's how you want to make it look like, whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion, or us paying just for the damages," the athlete says in a clip from the interview. "We don't know. All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money."

He noted, too, that they were "frightened" and "just wanted to get out of there" as quickly as possible. Pressed to explain his first version of the story, he said, "That's why I'm taking full responsibility for it. Because I overexaggerated that story. And if I never did that, we wouldn't be in this mess.… None of this would have happened. And it was my immature behavior."

The Today show took to Twitter immediately after the interview on Saturday morning, sharing a photo of Lauer seated across from Lochte. "@MLauer just interviewed @RyanLochte," the tweet read. "Tune in to @NBCNightlyNews & @NBCOlympics tonight, and @todayshow Monday."

Lauer was in contact with the Olympian during the scandal. Lochte initially claimed that he, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen had been robbed by men posing as police officers at a gas station on their way back to the Olympic Village on Sunday, August 14.

He spoke about the incident in an interview with Lauer's Today show colleague Billy Bush, saying the men had told him and his fellow swimmers to get down on the ground. He also said one of the alleged assailants had put a gun to his forehead.

Days later, however, Brazilian officials said they couldn't find any evidence that the robbery had taken place. Conger and Bentz were removed from their U.S.-bound planes and detained for questioning, but Lochte had already flown home.

Amid doubts about his story, he spoke with Lauer via phone. The longtime Today anchor recounted their conversation in a breaking news segment on Wednesday, August 17, quoting Lochte as saying, "We wouldn't make this story. We're victims in this and we're happy that we're safe."

Lauer did note, however, that the 32-year-old had tweaked one detail in his story: He said the gun was pointed in his direction rather than at his forehead. "I think he feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization," the NBC standout said. "He stuck to most of the story. He did change one thing — I would say he softened something, or stepped back."

The next day, Brazilian authorities announced that they believed the swimmers had "fabricated" the robbery to cover up their involvement in vandalizing the gas station. The United States Olympic Committee later confirmed this version of events, saying in a statement that the athletes' behavior was "not acceptable."

In the aftermath, Lochte addressed the controversy on Instagram. "I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics," he wrote.

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