Ryan Lochte had a frightening first night on Dancing With the Stars— and it had nothing to do with fear over his foxtrot. The champion Olympic swimmer says he feels “hurt” by protestors who tarnished his debut on the ABC celebrity ballroom competition. Two audience members rushed the stage in protest after Lochte completed his first dance with partner Cheryl Burke, and everyone in the ballroom was shaken up as the live show cut to commercial.
The incident occurred as judge Carrie Ann Inaba started her critique of Ryan and Cheryl’s debut dance. Home viewers could only see a split screen of Inaba talking and footage of the couple’s dance, but it was obvious that something was going on as Inaba began to say “excuse me” and “back off” to someone on the stage. The newly released ABC footage below shows what actually happened.
Insiders say two men wearing anti-Lochte T-shirts rushed the stage and appeared to attempt to attack Ryan, but DWTS security stepped in before anything could happen. The protestors were immediately cuffed and detained, then booted from the show. Lochte and Burke were reportedly freaked out and frozen in fear as the tense moments played out.
Footage taken inside the DWTS studios by Ryan’s friend, swimmer Ed Moses, later showed two men wearing anti-Lochte t-shirts being tackled by ABC security, and the men were later handcuffed.
NBC News revealed that the arrested men, Sam Sododeh, 48, and Barzeen Soroudi, 40, were authorized audience members who changed into the anti-Lochte t-shirts shortly before their “pre-planned” attack. According to People, pro dancer Derek Hough was instrumental in alerting security to get the two thugs out of the ballroom. Four women wearing similar anti-Lochte shirts while screaming “Liar!” were also escorted out of the DWTS studio.
After an impromptu commercial break, host Tom Bergeron addressed the incident and asked a shaken Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke if they were okay.
“I’m doing good,” Ryan said. “So many feelings are going through my head right now. A little hurt. I came out here and I wanted to do something I was completely uncomfortable with, and I did.”
Returning pro dancer Cheryl Burke said she felt bad for Lochte, the disgraced 12-time Olympic medalist who made headlines earlier this summer for vandalism and lying about being robbed by gunmen while he was in Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Ryan is currently serving a 10-month suspension from USA Swimming for the scandal.
“I’m hurt for Ryan,” Burke told Bergeron. “He’s sweet, he’s kind. He’s working his butt off. I hope people give him a chance.”
Cheryl Burke later posted a message on Instagram and said her heart is aching for Ryan and his family.
Ryan Lochte spoke to E! News after the ambush, saying the incident was upsetting to him as he began his Dancing With the Stars competition.
“It’s hard,” Ryan told E! “[It felt like] someone reached inside and ripped my heart out and stepped on it.”
Lochte also told ET Online that his pro partner, Cheryl Burke, helped him get through the tense moment.
“Honestly, it felt like someone just reached inside, took my heart out and tore it to shreds,” Ryan said.
“I was really hurt when I saw that and I was in shock. But I looked at Cheryl and she just smiled and said, ‘You just did what you said you can’t do. You danced in front of millions.’ And I was like, ‘You’re right.'”
Ryan Lochte may have been a polarizing pick for this season’s Dancing With the Stars, but he is clearly trying to turn over a new leaf. Ryan had plenty of support from the DWTS family after the upsetting incident.
“This is my home and I was just so shocked that people would come here and be so negative,” Hough told People after the live show.
“This is a safe place for people to learn a new skill and seek redemption or start a new chapter in their life and that’s what Ryan is trying to do and I just felt so defensive that someone would try and ruin that for him and for everyone watching, so I took it upon myself to make sure they were escorted out. I wanted to protect my home.”
Derek Hough wasn’t the only Dancing With the Stars alum who felt protective of Ryan Lochte.
Country singer Jana Kramer, one of Lochte’s celebrity competitors this season, told People that the champion swimmer was visibly shaken backstage.
“Ryan was backstage and close to tears. Everyone makes mistakes and I really hope America gets to see the guy we are all getting to know, which is a really, really nice guy.”
In addition, pro dancer Lindsay Arnold said she was shocked and sad about the protest over Cheryl Burke’s partner.
“I think it’s a shame that people would feel the need to do that,” Arnold said. “Ryan is just a guy who is coming here to entertain and get a fresh start and it’s sad that such a happy night of dance was disrupted like that.”
Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke also received messages of support from past fans and past contestants of the show, including Dancing with the Stars alum Robert Herjavek.
[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]