USA Today reporters uncover inconvenient truth: Lochte, U.S. swimmers WERE held up at gunpoint

USA Today reporters uncover inconvenient truth: Lochte, U.S. swimmers WERE held up at gunpoint
(Image: Screen grab of NBC Sports video, YouTube)

This is a public service post.  It sounds like Ryan Lochte and his fellow swimmers, who have been lambasted by the media for their questionable incident in Rio during the Olympic Games, deserve another hearing from the American public.  So we’ll report.  You decide.

Here’s the original report, with the original sleuth work, from USA Today.  Lest you think the USAT reporters are just fankids trying to find excuses for their favorite swimmers, note that their skepticism is shared by a Brazilian judge (emphasis added):

A Brazilian judge says police might have been hasty in determining the security guards, by how they dealt with the swimmers, did not commit a robbery. A lawyer who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years says she does not think the actions of Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen constitute the filing of a false police report as defined under Brazilian law.

If the judge and the lawyer cited by USAT are right, then the U.S. swimmers are not guilty of anything the media rushed to claim they’re guilty of.

The USAT reporters actually went to the gas station where Lochte and company supposedly trashed the restroom and got rough with security guards.  They inspected it to see if they could document the damage reportedly done by the swimmers.  Derek Hunter summarizes their findings nicely in his post at Townhall:

USA Today’s sports editor, David Meeks, and reporter Taylor Barnes actually went to the gas station, looked for damage, talked to witnesses and reviewed surveillance videos. What they discovered by simply asking questions, something journalists used to do, was what Lochte and the others told officials actually happened.

They found no damage to the bathroom – the mirror and soap dispensers were still intact or had been replaced not by new equipment but filthy, old equipment complete with crusty old soap. The door was old and undamaged, not kicked in.

Meeks and Barnes also consulted security video.  It showed that the swimmers never entered the restroom at all — they were unable to get into it, according to their own stories — but completed their business out back, behind the building.  The video showed no altercation of any kind in or around the gas station, prior to the swimmers getting into their taxi outside it.

At that point, the video went on to show the swimmers being held at gunpoint by a uniformed guard.  Hunter, again, summarizes it nicely:

A security guard, who the paper discovered was either a prison guard or off-duty cop moonlighting (no one will say which), stopped the car by flashing his badge. He did pull his gun and point it at the swimmers. This is the only place Lochte’s story deviates from what the actual evidence says.

Lochte reported the gun was put to his forehead. It wasn’t. It was pointed at him, according to the USA Today, at a distance of about 5 feet. That’s it.

As USAT and Hunter go on to point out, none of the swimmers was ever questioned about the alleged vandalism of the restroom, which is central to the police’s version of the story.  Basically, nothing about the police version can be verified.  It appears that no attempt was made to verify anything in the police’s story.

USAT spoke to an eyewitness who actually intervened when the guard pulled a gun on the swimmers.  I’m betting you haven’t heard word one about this eyewitness.

It is clear from all accounts that a Portuguese-English language barrier played a major role in the incident and that a bilingual Brazilian witness who stepped forward at the scene was critical in preventing a tense situation from escalating.

The witness, Fernando Deluz, says he got involved after one of the guards pulled a gun on the men.

“As soon as they drew their weapon, that’s when I got worried,” Deluz, a disc jockey, told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday.

“It was also so fast, and what I wanted was to resolve the situation,” says Deluz, who days later talked to police. “If it hadn’t been for wanting to resolve that, if I hadn’t involved myself, I thought – the police chief told me, ‘Man, if you hadn’t gone there in that moment, a tragedy could have occurred.’ ”

It sounds like we can reasonably conclude the police chief was referring to a tragedy that involved injury to the swimmers — not the other way around.

Derek Hunter thinks it’s pretty sleazy and unconscionable of the American media to convict the swimmers in the court of public opinion — including Lochte, who had a lot riding on his endorsement deals — and then move on, refusing to correct the misimpression they’ve left, just because they can.

I think he’s got a good case, as have Meeks and Barnes.  Hunter recounts how the usual P.C.-lunacy potshots have been taken at Lochte in the days since:

Time posts Stephen Colbert mocking him. Left-wing blogs moronically claim Lochte is the beneficiary of “white privilege,” Democratic Party stenographers at the Huffington Post asked the all-important question: Is Lochte a Trump supporter?

Hunter’s judgment:

These people are idiots. More importantly, they are evil.

They don’t know the truth; they haven’t bothered to seek it out. They know the narrative, and the narrative is enough. Americans suck, and Ryan Lochte is an American who is a wealthy white guy, so screw him. Truth be damned.

Sure, it makes a difference that Lochte and the other swimmers got plastered, in a dangerous foreign country, and ended up in a dicey situation.  If they hadn’t done that, they could probably have avoided this.  Maybe they should have just stayed in their rooms in the Olympic Village, instead of going out to celebrate.

But maybe the U.S. media shouldn’t behave as badly as corrupt Brazilian off-duty cops holding up foreigners for cash at gas stations, because they’re easy prey.  Which is basically what the American media have done here.  They’ve gone after easy prey, with no application of professionalism or conscience, and then shrugged and said, “What of it?”

Are we all so pristine and mistake-free, 24/365, that we can afford to not care about that, and just tell the swimmers to behave better next time?

I think the American people would give both sides a pretty fair hearing — if they heard both sides.  It may be that Derek Hunter, and even Meeks and Barnes, have gone too far in the direction of exculpating the swimmers.  But how can we trust the media to let us hear a balanced case, when it’s clear they have ignored basic due diligence, and the facts that contravene their ruling narrative about this event?

Over to you.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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