#LochMess: A hashtag identifying the scandal involving 12-time Olympic swimming medalist Ryan Lochte, who, along with three of his U.S. teammates, claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro the night after their gold-medal performance in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. Brazilian police investigators later determined that Lochte had lied about the incident, and that the four Americans had vandalized a gas-station bathroom while drunk and had been confronted by security guards demanding payment for damages. Lochte later repented publicly without exactly apologizing (he said he should have been “more careful and candid” in his description of the incident); on August 21 he told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer that he had “over-exaggerated” the story.
In social-media commentary, the incident was at first hashtagged #LochteGate, following the tried-and-true pattern for scandal nomenclature that originated with Watergate, the name of the hotel that housed the Democratic National Committee headquarters during the 1972 presidential campaign. Then, on August 18, Laya Maheshwari suggested an alternative.
The new hashtag, a pun on Loch Ness – home of the perennially elusive Loch Ness monster – combines the first syllable of Lochte’s surname with mess, which more accurately connotes the shifting narrative than any suffix suggesting “scandal.” What’s more, the monster, mythical or not, is a swimmer like Lochte. Well played, Laya Maheshwari!
Lochte, 32, has won 12 Olympic medals in his career, six of them gold; he is the second-most-decorated U.S. swimmer in history, after Michael Phelps. For most of his career he has specialized in backstroke and individual medley; when he races in freestyle events, he uses an unconventional turn technique borrowed from backstroke that has dramatically reduced his times.
His behavior outside of competition, however, has been less than sterling, even before the Rio ruckus. As a Slate summary puts it:
Aside from that, Lochte is famous for being a superattractive dummy. In 2012, the New York Times published an article titled “The Making of an Olympic Sex Symbol,” in which it described “his twinkling blue eyes, aquiline nose and dimpled smile.”Jezebel called him “America’s Sexiest Douchebag” and the Hairpin described him as a “scaldingly hot goon.” In Slate, Amanda Hess described him this way: “While Lochte is certainly highly broish, an unrelated character trait—stupidity—dominates his public persona. He is more himbo than bro.” All of this has helped give Lochte a higher profile than most Olympic athletes. For instance, Lochte parlayed his celebrity into the role of “Sex Idiot” on 30 Rock.
After the conflicting Rio stories surfaced, Lochte memes appeared in the usual social-media places. One old-media outlet, the New York Daily News, used Lochte’s full surname in its take on “Loch Ness monster.”
The “Rob” in “‘Rob’ tale” refers to the alleged robbery, not to some guy named Rob.