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Mistakes and Consequences

There is an old saying that goes: “When you create an illusion, the truth tends to reveal itself.” This is a proverb that Ryan Lochte, a 12-time Olympic swimming medalist, and Jussie Smollett, a recurring actor on the prime time television series Empire, must have overlooked. Both Lochte and Smollett have been involved in police hoaxes and are paying for their reckless actions. The severe consequences of their crimes make one wonder, why would someone willingly file a false police report?

During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, Ryan Lochte stated on the Today Show that he, along with three other Olympic swimmers, had been forced out of a taxi at gunpoint and robbed of money by men impersonating Brazilian police. This event garnered a significant amount of public attention and speculation as many questioned whether or not the story was truthful. In addition, Brazil received enormous shame and negative backlash. An investigation took place, and it soon came to light that the story was a hoax. In reality, Lochte and his Olympic colleagues drunkenly decided to vandalize and urinate on the premises of a Brazilian gas station. As a result of this scandal, Brazil was humiliated. The swimmers involved were required to release an apology statement and pay fines. Additionally, the swimmers lost sponsors, received community service hours, were blocked from Olympic training centers, and were suspended from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming. Again, the question arises: what causes a person to make such a decision and publicly lie?

Olympic swimmers are not the only ones who have filed false police hoaxes. On January 29th of 2019, Jussie Smollett was the alleged victim of a hate crime. Smollett described the previous day in his police statement that he was assaulted by two masked men. He claimed that they tied a noose around his neck, threw an unknown chemical on him, yelled homophobic and racial slurs at him, and beat him. When this came to light, Smollett’s Empire colleagues publicly supported him. Smollett became the focus of various media outlets; many pointed out his story’s unbelievable, suspicious nature. At the end of February, it was discovered that Smollett created the hate crime against himself with the help of two brothers that had acted as extras on Empire. The brothers confessed they were compensated for their involvement. Now, Smollett could face time in prison as a result of his actions. This information outraged and confused many people: how could someone would falsely report being the victim of a homophobic and racial hate crime?

Can we blame Lochte and Smollett’s lies on fear, stress, greed, or lack of morality? News outlets have been placing blame on all of those traits, but nonetheless, their motives continue to remain unclear to the public. Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist at West Palm Beach’s Whole Health Psychological Center, maintains that ultimately, people lie when they feel they have something to lose or are trying to protect an image. Regardless of their motivations, it is clear that their dishonest act was not worthwhile.