Billy Bush goes behind the scenes of Lochtegate: ‘It was a legitimate news story’

Billy Bush gave his thoughts on #Lochtegate.

Profile picture of SiriusXM Editor
SiriusXM Editor
August 22, 2016

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 22: NBC News’ Billy Bush in conversation with Jeff Rossen for SiriusXM’s TODAY Show Radio at SiriusXM Studios on August 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Ryan Lochte is barely treading water after getting caught exaggerating a story of an encounter with authorities in Rio during a drunken night out.

TODAY’s Billy Bush scored the biggest exclusive of the Olympics when he became the first person to interview him about an alleged robbery of Lochte and three of his teammates. But now that #Lochtegate is trending, some are criticizing the Access Hollywood vet to task for taking the swimming star at his word.

During the TODAY Show Radio Special: Meet Billy, hosted by Jeff Rossen on Monday, Bush explained that he caught Lochte on the fly, shooting their brief chat with an iPhone.

“The whole video is one minute and 40 seconds before, if you look at the end, the US Olympic Committee comes over and interrupts the whole thing and stops it. So really I was just in listening mode at that,” Bush explained. “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.”

“Did you believe him, when he was saying it?” TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen asked.

“Here’s what I say about Ryan Lochte. 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,” Bush said. “Something happened.”

Bush pointed out that the Brazilian police’s version of events doesn’t exactly add up, either.

“There was a gun. [The swimmers] were told to get on the ground. There’s a Portuguese-English language barrier, so if someone’s got a gun and I’m sitting on the ground and they’re telling me — now we found out later, Ryan, that he tore down a sign in the hallway, so we didn’t know about that act of vandalism. But in America, if someone rips down a sign in a hallway, do we pull a gun on them? It would be an outrage here,” he said. “So he’s on the ground there and money’s asked of them, you’re not speaking Portuguese, maybe that’s not robbery, but it’s certainly an involuntary act of giving forth money. I don’t know. So those things all line up. They say the bathroom was vandalized. There was a camera trained on that bathroom, never once do we see those guys come into frame, so it was something in the hallway, not the bathroom. The police chief said it was the bathroom. It doesn’t seem to be true. So 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. I feel badly about that, that this happened, but it was a legitimate news story.”

As for Lochte’s televised apology to TODAY’s Matt Lauer?

“I think the mea culpa came a little late,” Bush said. “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.”

For the record, he’s right: Speedo and Ralph Lauren have already dropped the athlete from endorsements.

As Rossen put it, “You don’t want him on a Wheaties box right now.”

Hear more news on SiriusXM TODAY Show Radio (Ch. 108).