The swimmer sat down with NBC’s Matt Lauer in his first sit-down TV interview since authorities accused him of fabricating his robbery story.
Lauer asked Lochte why he lied to him and NBC’s Billy Bush about what had happened.
“I left details out, and that’s why I’m in this mess,” the swimmer said.
When asked about Rio police painting him as a “vandal” vs. a victim, Lochte stopped short of saying he was a vandal.
“It’s how you wanna make it look like,” he told Lauer. “Whether you call it a robbery or extortion or us paying just for the damages. All we know was there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”
The swimmer also teared up at one point during the interview when asking how he felt when his fellow swimmers were detained in Rio when he knew they didn’t do anything wrong.
“I let my team down and, you know,” he said, as he started to tear up. “I wanted to be there. I don’t want them to think I left them and left them out to dry. They’re my teammates and I wanted to be there. I just wanted to make sure they were home safe before I came out to talk.”
When asked why he initially lied about his robbery, Lochte explained that he was still intoxicated.
“I don’t know why,” he said about his exaggerations. “It was hours after the incident happened [when I spoke to Billy Bush], I was still intoxicated. I’m not making that an excuse. I shouldn’t have said that. I over-exaggerated that part. The gun was drawn but it wasn’t at my forehead.
“I definitely had to much to drink that night and I was intoxicated and none of this would have happened if I hadn’t done that,” he continued.
When asked by Lauer about the reported translator who claimed he explained the situation and told the swimmers he was going to call the police if they didn’t pay, Lochte said: “Yeah, so then we had to give the money.
“We just wanted to get out of there,” he continued. “We were held. There was a gun pointed in our direction and we were frightened and we wanted to get out of there as quick as possible. We gave them money and we wanted to get out.”
However, Lochte took full responsibility for the international scandal and what happened to the other swimmers involved.
“That’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it,” when asked about his exaggerations of the incident. “If I had never done that, we never would have been in this mess … none of this would have happened. It was my immature behavior.”
Lochte kept repeating how “immature” his behavior had been and how sorry he was, saying it was trying to learn from his actions.
“I don’t want them to look at me, he was a drunk frat boy or whatever,” he said. “Everyone is watching my immature antics and I’m just I’m embarrassed.”
Lochte also apologized to the people or Rio, saying they had put on “a great Games” and he didn’t want to take away from that.
(Lochte also apologized to Brazilians on Globo TV in an interview that aired on Saturday. “Brazil doesn’t deserve that,” he said, according to Reuters.)
As for the rumors that he could be banned from swimming, Lochte said it wasn’t his call, but that he hoped that he could work to prove himself to be a good “role model to little kids” in the future.
When asked about potentially losing out on lucrative sponsorships, Lochte grew more calm and admitted his actions could risk him losing out on money.
“That’s something that I’m going to have to live with,” he said. “I know what I did was wrong and I know I learned my lesson.”
Last Sunday, Lochte’s mother revealed that her son had been robbed at gunpoint during a night out in Rio with his fellow swimmers. He had previously documented his night out on Snapchat, showing himself with a group of Team U.S.A. swimmers at a club.
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Lochte went on to confirm the story to NBC later that day, claiming that a robber posing as a police officer held a gun to his forehead and demanded money. As Brazilian authorities began unraveling the story, a judge ordered Lochte and the three other swimmers – Jack Conger, James Feigen and Gunnar Bentz – to remain in the country pending an investigation. Lochte had already left the country but the three other swimmers were held in Rio for questioning. They were eventually released and returned to the United States.
Lochte stuck by his story, saying he had been robbed at gunpoint, but he changed a few details when recounting the story to Lauer on Wednesday. By that point, police said the exchange was actually caused because the swimmers had vandalized a gas station and a security guard had drawn a gun and demanded the men pay for the damages, which authorities felt was justified under the circumstances.
On Friday, the gold medalist released a statement apologizing for the international incident that arose as a result of his robbery claims.
“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 said. “It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country – with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event.”
Shortly after Lochte released his statement, Bentz released a statement of his own, explaining that Lochte was the one who allegedly damaged an advertisement in the gas station and had argued with security guards.
Portions of Lauer’s interview with Lochte will air during Saturday’s primetime Olympics coverage on NBC. Additional portions of the interview will air on Monday during Today on NBC.