Two men stormed the stage of the Dancing with the Stars premiere Monday to protest Ryan Lochte’s participation on the ABC show.
The men wore t-shirts that featured the Olympian’s name crossed out. A group of seven to eight people wearing the same shirt encouraged them from the audience just as judge Carrie Ann Inaba began to give her critique.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” shouted Inaba (see video below), as a bit of the commotion appeared on camera. While a stunned Lochte and his partner Cheryl Burke stood in silence, Tom Bergeron took the show to break.
That’s when the ballroom erupted. While most of the crowd shouted in support of Lochte — who previously copped to “over-exaggerating” a story about a robbery at gunpoint in Rio de Janerio this summer — Derek Hough rushed in from backstage in an attempt to quell the protesters who yelled “liar” to the swimmer. “You need to get your negativity out of here,” he shouted at the group of men and women, who can be seen in the Tweet vid below.
“This is my home and I was just so shocked that people would come here and be so negative,” Hough told PEOPLE. “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.”
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Several security guards, meanwhile, quickly grabbed the two men — one of whom fell back into Lochte, Burke, and Bergeron. The men were then handcuffed and taken into custody by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Reached late Monday by EW, an LAPD official would only confirm that two men were being booked at the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center. Their names were not released.
After the encounter, witnesses says Lochte appeared stunned while Burke’s eyes filled with tears. When the show returned from the commercial break, Bergeron said there was an “incident” while a visibly shaken Burke said, “I’m shocked. I’m hurt for Ryan. He’s an amazing guy.”
“I came out here, I wanted to do something that I was completely not comfortable with,” added Lochte, who was suspended by the International Olympic Committee after he lied about a robbery at gunpoint in Rio last month.
For the DWTS premiere, Lochte and Burke performed to the song “Call Me Irresponsible” and earned 24 out of 40 points. They were “too shaken” to participate in the customary press line after the show, their publicist said.
“It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced,” said one longtime staffer after the show.
Pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who returned to the show this season after a short absence from the ballroom, said no one has ever stormed the stage in the history of the competition show — until Monday. “We had Miss Sarah Palin present in our ballroom one time and nothing like this happened,” he told EW. “I just don’t think we are the show. We all have opinions, we all may be drastic in our beliefs, whatever. The ballroom of Dancing With the Stars is not a place you want to run out on because we don’t actually think about these things. We are occupied 24/7 with teaching our partners how to friggin’ foxtrot. Believe me, [the celebrities] are going through enough already. Let them be. Find them in the supermarket or something.”
Added Jana Kramer to PEOPLE, “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.”
After the show, Inaba credited the show’s security team for bringing the interruption to a swift halt. The show that tapes at the CBS Television Studios at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles requires all audience members to walk through metal detectors before taking their seats.
“We had a bit of a scary moment during tonight’s live taping of @dancingabc, but thanks to our security team and incredible staff at #DWTS, no one got hurt,” she said via Instagram. “Only positive energy here tonight and always. Thank you. #dancingwiththestars #security #grateful #dwtspremiere #dwts23,” she wrote.
Before Monday’s season 23 premiere, Burke told EW she hopes America will give Lochte a second chance after what happened in Rio. The IOC not only suspended Lochte for 10 months but forced him to give up $100,000 in bonuses. He will miss the 2017 world swimming championships.
“It must be hard for him,” Burke told EW about Lochte, who agreed to appear on DWTS before the so-called robbery incident. “I have to really like protect him in a way. I feel like he’s my brother. I real do care and I can’t even understand what he’s going through right now. I couldn’t even put myself in his shoes, but I just want him to go out there and feel as confident as possible. But I see how he has been affected. How can you not be affected when every single person on television is making fun of you?”
— Additional reporting by Patrick Gomez