While many gave a mental high-five when NBC weatherman Al Roker went in on American swimmer Ryan Lochte for his sketchy tale about being robbed during the Rio Olympic Games, reportedly, network bigwigs and talent were not similarly pleased.
NBC weatherman Al Roker. (AP Photo/Victoria Will)
Lochte and his teammates reported they had been robbed at gunpoint by men dressed as Brazilian police officers after they spent a drunken night on the town. NBC’s Billy Bush was the first to score an interview with Lochte after the alleged holdup.
Local authorities and others began to poke holes in the swimmers’ tale, however, and in a subsequent interview with “Today” host Matt Lauer, Lochte’s story further unraveled. Even worse, while Brazilian authorities detained the other swimmers for questioning into the misleading account, Lochte hightailed it back to the U.S.
In an Aug.19 segment on the “Today” show, which was broadcast live from Rio, Bush seemed to downplay Lochte’s role in the international scandal, but Roker wasn’t having it.
“He lied to you, he lied to Matt Lauer, he lied to his mom,” Roker said to his co-host. “He left his teammates hanging while he skedaddled. There was no robbery, there was no pull over. He lied.”
In this Aug. 9, 2016, file photo, United States’ Ryan Lochte checks his time after a men’ 4×200-meter freestyle relay heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Brazilian police official told The Associated Press that Lochte fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
According to Page Six, “Today” show executives and on-air personalities were “embarrassed” by Roker’s spirited comments.
“There were several producers and talent who were left trying to explain Al’s over-the-top behavior,” said a source, according to the news site. “Several insiders found themselves wanting to distance themselves from his response.
“It was a great thing to watch online, but a lot of NBC staff thought that he took it way too far for something that, while it was certainly a legitimate issue and certainly bad behavior by Lochte, outrage to that level just wasn’t justified.”
According to the Washington Post, the on-air disagreement mirrors reports of infighting at the network morning show. The newspaper also cited the hosts’ awkward attempts to smooth over lingering effects of the Lochte dust-up.
“People don’t know that … we’re friends. We’ve known each other a long time,” Roker said during the Aug. 22 taping. “And that this is what we do on this show.”
But, according to Page Six, an NBC exec denied any internal blowback at all: “This is not true. No one feels this way. In fact, everyone here is happy — specifically with the ‘Today’ show’s great ratings.”