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Telling Matt Lauer he “learned the hard way” that being photographed puffing on a bong was “a bad mistake,” Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps tried to repair his damaged reputation this morning on the Today show.
Never actually admitting to smoking pot at a frat party in November, Phelps said he was more concerned about how he’d hurt his family, friends and fans than losing lucrative endorsement deals. Soon after the photo was released food giant Kelloggs dropped Phelps from their sports superstar endorsement lineup and USA swimming has banned him from the sport for 90 days.
The interview appears to be the first shot in Phelps’ battle to hold on to the rest of his empire, and Matt Lauer helped with some typically softball questioning.
The scandalous photo was taken at a house party while Phelps was visiting Columbia, S.C., in November during a break from training after he won a record eight gold medals in Beijing.
Trying to explain his career threatening bong hit, Phelps admits “there was probably two or three people there I didn’t know. It was a very small group. Six or seven people probably total in the whole house. Like nothing major. You know, not like a giant college house party. It was nothing like that. It was just a small group and we were just sitting around and celebrating.” An unknown member of the group took the shot with a cell phone camera as Phelps was puffing on the water pipe.
Phelps said he trusted his friends that the people he didn’t know at the party could also be trusted. “People think, you know, it’s funny at times to take an impromptu cell phone picture. I’ll say that there are a lot of people out there who want to take advantage of any situation they have. Sometimes you learn the hard way.”
With questions and answers that say nothing, and an obviously carefully guided PR machine to back him up, maybe Phelps should climb out of the pool and dive into politics. Oh, wait. He can never say he didn’t inhale. Scratch that idea.
Hopefully it was some primo weed.
Watch more clips from the Today show right here on Fancast.