Ryan Lochte spoke to NBC’s Matt Lauer, admitting he exaggerated the story of a gas station incident in Rio and taking full responsibility for the situation.
“I over-exaggerated that story,” he said to Lauer, according to an NBC report.
Lochte said he took “full responsibility” for the situation, which has now ballooned into a major story after it was discovered that the incident wasn’t exactly the gunpoint robbery Lochte originally said it was and instead involved security guards demanding payment for damages they say Lochte and three other swimmers caused to a gas station bathroom.
“I’m taking full responsibility for it,” Lochte said. “Because I over-exaggerated that story. And if I had never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess … None of this would have happened. And it was my immature behavior.”
But Lochte still maintained that there was confusion among the swimmers at the time about the events that took place:
“It’s how you want to make it look like,” Lochte responded after Lauer asked why Lochte originally framed the swimmers as victims. “Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion, or us paying just for the damages, like, we don’t know. All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction, and we were demanded to give money.”
“We just wanted to get out of there,” Lochte continued. “We were all frightened. And we wanted to get out of there as quick as possible. And the only way we knew is — this guy saying, ‘You have to give him money.’ So we gave him money, and we got out.”
NBC will air a more full-length video of Lochte’s interview with Lauer during Saturday night’s Olympics coverage, and will also play the interview on Today on Monday, August 22nd. You can view a brief excerpt of the interview here.
We’ll be updating this story with any more important Lochte comments from the full interview, which should air at around 8 Eastern on NBC.
UPDATE: A preview of the interview saw Lauer ask Lochte how he felt, watching from the United States as his teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were pulled off their airplane home to testify for Brazilian police.
“Hurt,” Lochte said, his voice cracking a little with emotion. “I let my team down. I wanted to be there. I didn’t want them to think I left and left them dry. They were my teammates, I definitely wanted to be there. I wanted to make sure they were home safe before I came out and talked.”
UPDATE: More quotes from Lochte’s interview, which aired around 10:30 Eastern:
Lochte said he didn’t speak publicly (outside of his apology on Instagram) until he knew his teammates were back in the United States.
“Before I wanted to go out on camera, I really wanted to make sure those guys came back on American soil,” he told Lauer.
Lochte admitted he left out details and exaggerated others in his early retellings of the events.
“I left details out, and that’s why I’m in this mess,” he said. Lochte also said his claim that a gun was cocked against his forehead was untrue. When pressed on why he would make up that detail, Lochte admitted he was still under the influence of alcohol at the time.
“I was still intoxicated. I was still under that influence,” he said, making clear that his intoxication didn’t absolve him of guilt. “I’m not making that excuse. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“The gun was drawn, but wasn’t cocked at my forehead. It was pointed in my general direction, and you can see in the footage, that’s when my hands went up.”
“I definitely had too much to drink that night and I was definitely intoxicated. And none of this would have happened if I hadn’t done that.”
“I’m just really sorry about it. I’m embarrassed,” Lochte said, apologizing to his teammates, family, USA Swimming and the Olympic audience, among others.
When asked what he would say to the people of Rio:
“How sorry I am, and my deepest apologies. They put on a great Games. My immature, intoxicated behavior tarnished that a little. And I don’t want that, because they did a great job.”
When asked about whether he deserves a punishment from USA Swimming, the USOC or IOC:
“That’s not my call. All I know is, I learned my lesson from this. These kind of shenanigans, or whatever you want to call them, won’t happen again.”
When asked about the damage to his legacy:
“I don’t want little kids to look at me for what I just did, for that one night… I want to be a role model. And I know that I can change that.”
The full interview will be aired Monday on Today.