Theoden Janes

Ryan Lochte wished friend happy birthday on Instagram, and the Internet got angry

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Since returning to the U.S. on Tuesday amid controversy surrounding his claims that he and three teammates were robbed in Rio last weekend, Ryan Lochte has tried to put on a happy face.

In fact, on Thursday – as Brazilian officials worked to prove the athletes were lying – the 12-time Olympic medal-winning swimmer put on a goofy and distorted one, in an Instagram video showing him and friend Elizabeth Beisel clowning around with a face-altering app.

Beisel, a 400-meter individual medley silver medalist for the U.S. in London in 2012, turned 24 Thursday; so Lochte captioned his video “Happy birthday @ebeisel34 #lilsis.”

Then he deleted it, apparently after a deluge of negative comments referring to the seriousness of the situation – including the appearance of holes in his original story and the fact that swimmers Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger hadn’t left Rio yet because they were being detained and questioned by authorities.

(Note: There’s secondhand video of said goofy birthday video on YouTube, but we’re not linking to it here because it also shows a string of ultra-profane comments and, well, the Observer is a family newspaper.)

This was the second time since the story broke that Lochte has been hit with backlash for perceived tone-deafness on social media: On Tuesday, the day he returned to the U.S., he tweeted his excitement about the fact that the hair he had dyed light blue (whitish gray?) for the Olympics would be returning to its normal color.

But a follow-up hair-related tweet, posted after the reverse dye job was done, was reportedly deleted – after social-media users broke out into a chorus of virtual boos.

Since then, Lochte’s only activity on Twitter has been retweets: On Wednesday, he shared a random-ish post by former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, two promos for a primetime update on Lochte’s story via NBC’s Matt Lauer (more on that interview in a sec), and this:

Though he typically has been tweeting to his 1.18 million followers on Twitter multiple times per day, Charlotte’s most famous swimmer hadn’t posted anything on Thursday as of mid-afternoon.

In fact, it’s been pretty much radio silence from Lochte since he got back home. He ran into a few fans on his return flight from Brazil...

...but otherwise has laid low, granting just one interview with the media so far – and it was one that didn’t exactly leave the greatest impression.

Reporting for NBC Wednesday night, Lauer told Olympics anchor Bob Costas: “Now when he (Lochte) talked to Billy Bush on Sunday, he said that is when the guy took the gun put it to his forehead and cocked it. When he talked to me tonight, he said ‘that is when the guy pointed the gun in my direction and cocked it.’

“And I pointedly said to him ‘you had said before it was placed on your forehead and cocked.’ He said, ‘No, that is not exactly what happened.’ I think he feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization. I think people listening at home might think that it was an embellishment at the time.”

I tried contacting Lochte via cellphone on Thursday morning and am awaiting a response I don’t expect to get. In the meantime, who knows what he might post on social media next?

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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