Politics

Sen. Dianne Feinstein Asks Ryan Lochte to Apologize

Shortly before Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte was indicted by Rio de Janeiro authorities Thursday on charges of falsely reporting a robbery, California Senator Dianne Feinstein delivered a sobering message for the athlete on CNN.

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"Whatever happened, and there are different stories, continuing this doesn't make any sense," she said.

"I think it's up for those of us that are in the public eye, that represent our government, our people, our constitution, and, most importantly, our flag, do so with the highest respect for the country they're in," Feinstein, also the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN.

"Apologize, make your amends, and put it aside and hopefully that will be the case," she said. "Because this is an incident that's going to escalate."

If you haven't been following #Lochtegate, let me catch you up a bit.

In an NBC interview this week, Lochte said he and several of his team mates were robbed at gunpoint by someone dressed in a policeman's uniform early Sunday morning. Brazilian authorities then pointed to inconsistences in Lochte's account of events, Reuters explains. They suggested that his story might have been fabricated to cover up an incident at a Rio gas station, which the swimmers allegedly vandalized.

A Brazilian police source told ABC News, “one of the swimmers was seen on CCTV footage breaking down the door to the bathroom at [a] gas station and fighting with a security guard.”

ATTN: has not viewed the footage showing the alleged altercation cited by Brazilian police, however, a video posted by multiple news sources shows a gas station attendant exiting a hallway holding what looks to be parts of a broken door. 

So why is a U.S. politician getting involved?

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As Dave Zirin observed on the Nation, if Lochte lied, his actions illustrate a larger problem with how American tourists behave in South American and Central American countries.

From Zirin:

"There is not only frustration with the complaints of First World tourists but also resentment over the typical privileged over-entitled First World guest who really does believe in the old imperial axiom that “there is no sin below the equator.

It is into this vortex that Ryan Lochte and friends have stepped. They check every box: They are from the United States. They are Olympians. They give the appearance of party boys. They originally accused Brazil’s police of robbing them, besmirching the honor of not only the local police but the entire multibillion-dollar Olympic security operation. Even those in Rio who spend their lives fighting police corruption don’t want to hear Lochte and company play 'Dude, where’s my wallet?'"

Many reports from athletes and news outlets have already cast Rio in an unflattering light.

On Monday, reports circulated that a garbage fire spread across a mountain biking course. Last week, a Belgian sailor reported feeling sick, igniting speculation that her illness was a result of Rio's poor water quality, which was widely reported leading up to the Games. An earlier complaint about a green swimming pool tweeted by an Olympic athlete​ raised questions about potential biohazards.

Also on Thursday, news broke that a British athlete was a victim of a robbery at gunpoint, NBC reports. A team spokesperson and the Guardian both confirmed that the incident occurred.

Violent crime continues to be major problem in Rio — and extends far beyond the timeline of the spectacle of the Olympics, as CNN reported.

Lochte's allegations, if proven false, will have needlessly exacerbated the very real stresses Brazilian officials are facing. They could also inject tension into the United States' relationship with Brazil, and reinforce stereotypes about "Ugly Americans."

As of Thursday evening, Lochte has not apologized and stands by his original story.

[h/t the Hill]