Embattled Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s “Dancing With the Stars” debut was interrupted Monday night when protesters stormed the stage and were escorted out by security.
It’s unclear exactly what happened because the ABC cameras did not show the incident. As judge Carrie Ann Inaba was offering her remarks after Lochte’s performance toward the end of the episode, viewers only heard the sounds of a scuffle and saw the shocked look on Inaba’s face as she started saying “excuse me!” But a network source said someone jumped down to the stage and tried to “knock [Lochte] down,” though they were stopped by security guards.
Entertainment Weekly reported the protesters were two men who had the name “Lochte” crossed out on their shirts. This image of the men in question started making the rounds on Twitter, via ABC News Radio correspondent Jason Nathanson.
According to People magazine, the audience started chanting Lochte’s name during commercial break, while his professional dance partner, Cheryl Burke, was in tears.
Host Tom Bergeron quickly cut to commercial during the confusion. “We had to go to break because we had a little incident. I would like to personally thank our security team for staying in shape,” he said when the show returned, then turned his attention to Lochte and Burke. “Are you okay, you guys? Ryan, how are you doing?”
“I’m good,” Lochte said, looking rattled.
“When there’s that kind of strong emotion, what does that make you feel like?” Bergeron asked of the strong anti-Lochte sentiment, which has run deep ever since the swimmer was caught lying about details of a robbery during the summer Olympics in Rio.
“So many feelings are going through my head right now. A little hurt,” Lochte said. “But I came out here, I wanted to do something that i’m completely not comfortable with, and I did, and I came out with a big smile, and had the best dance partner.”
“We are nothing if not a country of second acts and second chances,” Bergeron assured him.
Inaba finished her comments that were cut off during the protester (“I think you have a lot to work on, but this is a fresh start”), and the judges awarded the pair a score of 24 out of 40. Bergeron also checked in with Burke to see how she was feeling.
“I’m shocked, and I am hurt for Ryan,” Burke said. “Me and Ryan have gotten to know each other, and he’s an amazing guy. He’s great, and kind, just here working his butt off, trying to do what he’s supposed to be doing, which is dancing. I hope people give him a chance.”