On Thursday, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today published a story about Ryan Lochte that was unapologetic gossip about the Olympic swimmer. It quoted Lochte’s mother who said in a recent interview:
"He goes out on one-night stands," Ike Lochte told Today.com while being interviewed on the set of NBC’s Today show. “He’s not able to give fully to a relationship because he’s always on the go.”
The article took off, and people all over the place were talking about Ike Lochte’s approval of her son’s promiscuous ways. In several writeups, USA Today, despite not having the original interview with Ike, was credited as a source. In essence, the story clicked.
Today, Auerbach returned with a followup story — no doubt the result of discussion with an editor looking to piggyback on the viral success. It centers on the learning experience Ike endured over the past 24 hours. This time, Ike spoke directly to USA TODAY Sports.
"All I wanted to say is that he’s so sensitive about not wanting to hurt a girl dating, so he just goes and dates and takes out a girl for maybe one or two dates and doesn’t have a relationship because he doesn’t have (time) and it’s not fair to the women.
Auerbach’s story today ends with a comment on the media, courtesy of Ryan. She sets up Ryan’s quote about twisting words by stating, “He’s had enough experience with the media to know that these things happen.”
Is that Auerbach’s way of owning up to the fact that she did something dishonest? Or is it a complete deflection of responsibility for her role in it?
No harm was really caused by this episode so there’s nothing to be ashamed of or to regret about the coverage. Auerbach’s selection of that quote from the Today interview is what set all of this into motion. Bloggers and others might have run with the quote and distorted Ike’s message afterward, but it all began with Auerbach’s original story.
Ryan said about his mother: “She definitely was like, ‘Why would they do that?’ She is so oblivious to everything.” For her role, Auerbach should be included in that “they.” If she’s not, who are they, and how so we identify them?