Billy Bush on Ryan Lochte's Robbery Lie: 'Did He Besmirch America's Character? Yes'
Billy Bush is opening up about his now-infamous interview with swimmer Ryan Lochte about his fabricated robbery in Rio.
“Did he besmirch America’s character? Yes, it was an unfortunate thing for us, because it was such a sideshow for the second week of the Olympics,” Bush said during a SiriusXM Today Show sit-down. “I feel badly about that, that this happened, but it was a legitimate news story.”
Bush was the first to track down Lochte for an interview after the swimmer’s mother, Ileana Lochte, told USA Today that her son and some of his teammates had been held up during a night out in Rio. Lochte seemingly cleared up conflicting reports, telling Bush in a oceanside interview that he was pulled over in a taxi and had a gun held to his head. Lochte, who said he was with teammates Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, told Bush the robber took his wallet.
“The whole video is one minute and 40 seconds before, if you look at the end, the U.S. Olympic Committee comes over and interrupts the whole thing and stops it. So really I was just in listening mode at that,” Bush said on SiriusXm. “As you know, when something big is happening, you listen. You listen, you let everything come out as much as you can and then you start the follow-up. So I didn’t really get to do much of that, because that’s all we had.”
Lochte admitted that he “left details out” of his story after a Brazilian judge issued a seizure of his passport when he was already back in the United States. He told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview on Sunday that he was drunk the next morning, when he gave an his interview to Billy Bush.
“I remember some things that happened, but there are a lot of things that I don’t remember,” he said. “There are bits and pieces that I do remember.”
He continued, “The part that I made up was saying that it was a robbery. I think the word ‘robbery’ shocked a lot of people, and the story went viral after that. A gun was pulled, and we had to give them cash. If I didn’t say ‘robbery,’ none of this would have happened.”
He’s subsequently been dropped by sponsors Speedo and Ralph Lauren, and is facing further action from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Rio police accused Lochte and Feigen of filing a false police report, for which the pair could face up to six months in prison. Feigen paid $11,000 to be donated to a charity in order to not face charges. Bentz and Conger do not face charges but were pulled off a plane headed back to the U.S. for questioning.
RELATED VIDEO: ‘I Accept Responsibility’: Ryan Lochte Apologizes for Robbery Claim
“I think the mea culpa came a little late,” Bush said of Lochte’s apologies, Monday. “There will we a ban, I don’t think it’ll be a lifetime ban… He’s gonna lose a lot of money. I don’t think he’s making Phelps money, but he’s making decent cash and it’s gonna hurt there for sure.”
Asked if he believed Lochte’s initial story, Bush said, “Even when he hasn’t been out all night and completely soaked in cocktails, he isn’t the best storyteller and weaver of thoughts together. So then you add that, I mean, it’s got to be even worse. So if he’s completely inventing it, it’s a miracle he can even get it straight, and he told a mellifluous tale. It flowed nicely.”