Ryan Lochte and the Myth of the ‘Ugly American’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Swimmer Ryan Lochte left the Olympics winning more mockery than medals. After an intense but confusing gas station stop in Rio, Lochte’s legacy went from swimming elite to Ugly American.

Lochte finds himself at the center of a politically correct lynch mob – led by U.S. journalists – that would rather devour one of their own than admit that the Rio Olympics – marred by crime, pollution, and incompetence – limps to Sunday’s finish line.

Lotche’s troubles began last Sunday when he and three other swimmers returned from a night on the town. According to Lochte, the four stopped at a gas station, a security officer with a “police-like” badge pulled a gun on them, and the quartet quickly handed over cash.

Lochte notified his mom of the robbery shortly thereafter. Lochte’s mom did discuss the incident with reporters and that led to a media explosion.

Upon seeing the news reports, Rio authorities claim they launched an independent investigation. Authorities took statements from the four swimmers and undertook an effort to prove the swimmers liars. Overnight Lochte went from a victim of a violent crime to, as the New York Post front page proclaimed, an “Ugly American.”

“Ryan Lochte — Ugly American with a truly ugly hairstyle — did it,” the Post’s Mike Vaccaro wrote. The “it” referred to accusations of Lochte behaving as a privileged American who disparaged a less fortunate nation by using violent crime to cover up his own shortcomings.

Vaccaro was not alone in his righteous anger.

“For doing what he did to these Games, to Rio, to USOC, to other athletes, Ryan Lochte should be banned for life by USA Swimming,” Christine Brennan, a CNN contributor, tweeted.

As the media firestorm continued, facts surfaced that security guards did indeed hold up Lochte at gunpoint. The detention stemmed from the swimmers causing damage to the gas station’s bathroom.

“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier — and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event,” Lochte wrote in an apology.

To the anti-Lochte crowd this proved that the swimmer acted as another “Ugly American.” But did the gas station incident really display an Ugly American run amuck? Was Lochte, as Vaccaro and Brennan profess, a cowboy who thought he could do whatever he wanted?

To folks like Vaccaro and Brennan, America – especially white Americans – are a suspect people. “So we have him, and his kind, to thank for the suspicious stares we get on the streets of Prague, or the rolled eyes we get standing in line for gelato in Florence, or the curious questions we get from cab drivers in County Clare,” Vaccaro lamented.

“Ugly American” is a myth created by a self-loathing liberal class that regards America as inherently evil. From slavery to segregation to treatment of other nations, American, in the view of these self-loathing Americans, acts as a bully in need of continual atonement.

This narrative, though, is too easy. Frankly, it misses the mark.

Lochte behaved not without sin. But just because Lochte chose incorrect words to describe his ordeal, or catalyzed it by allegedly tearing down a tin sign, does not mean that the Rio authorities behaved admirably.

We know that the Rio authorities immediately investigated this on their own. They say it is because they care. Malarkey.

Months before the Olympics began shocking footage surfaced of a gang of children mugging tourists at gunpoint. This didn’t change as baby faced muggers plagued the Olympics. And though the security guards may not have robbed Lochte in the technical sense, we do know a British athlete was held at gunpoint. A Belgian bronze-medalist judoka even got slugged in the face after thief stole his friend’s cell phone.

As Rio’s citizens are subjected to crime, pollution, and prostitution on a daily basis, few reporters demand that Rio officials apologize for their inability to get a handle on the city. Instead, of investigating the slew of reported crimes the cops used their resources to investigate an unreported on.

Why? Because Lochte, whether accurate or not, put a spotlight on Brazilian decline. Brazilians are mad and Americans feel guilty; none of which helps this situation. Lochte had to pay a price so Rio could save face.

A Brazilian judge suspended the passports of all four swimmers. Two swimmers were yanked off of their plane and released only after they incriminated Lochte. A third swimmer made a “donation” in excess of $10,000 to get out of the country. Even Brennan tweeted that Lochte’s apology came as the result of the swimmer not wanting a life suspension. In other words, coercion served as the catalyst of change here.

Whether robbed or not, Lochte received the same Third World justice that has contributed to Rio’s decline. By placing the blame on the “Ugly American,” we ensure that nothing changes for the better long after the torch leaves Brazil.

Joseph R. Murray II, is administrator for LGBTrump, former campaign official for Pat Buchanan, and author of “Odd Man Out”. He can be reached at jrm@joemurrayenterprises.com.


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