How Ryan Lochte ‘Co-opted NBC’

By Chris Ariens 

Following nearly three weeks in Rio, NBC’s Billy Bush joins the Today show in New York as the new co-host of the third hour of the Today show, effectively job swapping with Natalie Morales who takes Bush’s slot co-hosting Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live alongside Kit Hoover.

A week ago today, Bush stumbled into an interview with Ryan Lochte, which Hoover shot with her iPhone, that was the envy of his new NBC News colleagues. For a little while, anyway. But as we now know the Olympic swimmer’s story of being robbed at gunpoint by “these guys with a police badge” was almost entirely made up.

The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir takes a deep dive at NBC’s week of coverage of the incident and concludes “Lochte’s version had, in essence, co-opted NBC.”

It was a risky thing for NBC to televise without stronger vetting. The network takes NBC News reporters to the Games but hopes nothing terrible will interrupt the Olympics as a sports and entertainment vehicle. Now it had a crime story about Lochte, the publicity-loving swimmer and popular second fiddle to Michael Phelps, that was reported by Bush, who was best known until recently as the host of the fluffy “Access Hollywood” syndicated program. Sensational as it was, Lochte’s account needed more reporting before it entered NBC’s news ecosystem.