A tearful Ryan Lochte confessed Saturday that he “over-exaggerated” an incident that he originally claimed was a robbery at gunpoint at the Rio Olympics.
In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, the U.S. swimmer and Olympic medalist attempted to clarify what has become an international incident.
Lochte’s swimming teammates have come under scrutiny in Brazil for allegedly vandalizing a gas station and lying to police, though Lochte originally claimed that they’d been held up by gunpoint.
“That’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it,” Lochte said. “I over-exaggerated this story, and if I hadn’t done that we wouldn’t be in this mess. It was my immature behavior.”
A stern-faced Lauer questioned Lochte in an almost parental manner. “The first version of the story you told, Ryan, was about the mean streets of Rio,” said Lauer. “The version we’re hearing now is a negotiated settlement… You’re striking a deal to pay for what damage you’ve caused so he doesn’t call the police.”
Lochte replied, “We just wanted to get out of there. There was a gun pointed in our direction — we were all frightened.”
Lauer asked what Lochte felt when he saw police remove his teammates from the plane: “You said they didn’t damage anything in that gas station… How did it make you feel?”
Lochte replied: “Hurt. I let my team down. I wanted to be there, I don’t want them to think I left, and left them dry, ’cause they’re my teammates and I wanted to definitely be there. I wanted to help out any way I could.”
Twitter immediately excoriated Lauer rather than Lochte for his handling of the interview, with one calling him a “sanctimonious bully.”
Watching Lochte w Matt Lauer…wow…Lochte looks even worse…like a total dope and liar and fraud…
— Michael Wilbon (@RealMikeWilbon) August 21, 2016
NBC aired excerpts of the interview during its Olympics coverage on Saturday night.
The full interview will air on NBC on Monday.