Ryan Lochte has been caught in a well publicized lie. He told NBC that he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in Rio. This turned out to be a terrific lie. The truth of the matter was that Lochte and three other swimmers trashed a gas station while drunk and refused to pay for any of the damage. Security guards removed the swimmers from their taxi and questioned them about the incident. Lochte then created the robbery story out of whole cloth and told it to NBC.
The Lochte robbery story didn’t last long on the media before it was disproven by videotape of Lochte and three other swimmers trashing a Rio gas station. The video shows the men leaving the gas station and shows nothing close to the robbery at gunpoint that Lochte described to NBC.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead, and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up. I was like, ‘Whatever,’” Lochte told NBC in one of his early accounts of the incident.
The video shows Lochte and the other swimmers stumbling out of the gas station and then attempting to get in the wrong taxi. That is a drunk move if I ever saw one. They find their way to the correct taxi and pile in. The taxi is then approached by a security guard and the swimmers are ushered out of the taxi and made to sit on the curb as they are questioned.
Certainly there is no footage of anyone putting a gun to Lochte’s head. Lochte sticks by his side of the story even after apologizing. He says that the story he told NBC is “mostly true” and that there is missing footage in the gas station video and that the missing footage will show him being held at gunpoint. I guess it was mostly true because yes, he is Ryan Lochte, yes he is in Rio for the Olympics and yes a lot of us are still imagining him with a gun to his head.
It was later revealed by the owner of the gas station that Lochte and the other swimmers had entered the gas station in the early hours of the morning and were visibly drunk. They entered the bathroom where they allegedly broke a soap dispenser and defaced several advertisements inside the store.
When Brazilian authorities found out that Lochte and his teammates were not being truthful in their statements to police, the lies became part of an international incident. In Brazil, filing a false police report is punishable by up to 6 months in prison.
Judge Blanc de Cnop ordered the seizure of Lochte and his teammates’ passports, so they could be brought in for questioning to determine whether they filed a false police report. That’s what led to Conger and Bentz, two of the swimmers with Lochte that night being pulled off their flight. Lochte was already in the states. Now authorities have to decide whether they are going to extradite Lochte to face penalties for filing a false police report in Brazil.
The lies Lochte tells are particularly damaging because they play into the stereotype that Brazil is a dangerous country where people get robbed at gunpoint. This was an image Brazil was trying hard to dispel by hosting a great Olympic games. it appears that this Olympics went smoothly and that no violence against athletes was reported. That is, until Ryan Lochte decided to construct this whopper of a lie. The image that Lochte’s lie promotes is the worst kind of stereotyping that leads to racism and phobias about foreign countries that really aren’t true.
Now the lies have been revealed and Lochte and his teammates actions feed into another negative stereotype; the stereotype of the ugly drunken American who goes to another country in South America and treats it like it’s his own personal toilet meant to be shit all over and left for someone else to clean up. Many Americans are not even aware of the “ugly American” stereotype. This shows just how ignorant many of our citizens really are about the way that foreign countries view American tourists. Several South American countries have negative views of American tourists as privileged and disrespectful. Lochte’s actions just go to reinforce these stereotypes and deepen the distrust of South American countries against Americans.
It is possible that actions like Lochte’s actually lead to more Americans getting mugged in Brazil. The thinking is that if all Americans think like this, then what could possibly be the harm in ripping them off or mugging them. They don’t respect our country anyway, so why don’t we just not respect them while they are down here? This leads to more distrust and more negative experiences between American tourists and Brazilian citizens.
Time will tell if Lochte is actually extradited back to Brazil to face charges. Maybe if he is, he will get to spend some time in a Brazilian jail and learn some humility.