How Did Katie Couric Land The Manti Te’o Interview?

Photo: ABC

If you hadn’t heard about the story of Manti Te’o and his fake girlfriend–by the way, congratulations–he finally had a televised sit-down interview with Katie Couric for her daytime talk show. Many speculated and suggested that Oprah Winfrey should be the one to interview him, but somehow Couric landed the coveted sit-down. So how did she do it?

Matthew Hiltzik, a crisis management expert who is currently representing Te’o, has also worked with Couric for seven and a half years. Sources say this wasn’t the deciding factor, but that the audience reach from Couric’s employer ABC News and it’s parent company Walt Disney Co. made her the best candidate. Also, the media hype of Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong may have hurt her. Personally I would have loved to see the winces and side eyes she would have given him, and I can’t help but think that Katie’s lax interviewing style played a part in this as well.

The interview was taped on Tuesday, and Te’o’s mother Ottilio said she felt like Katie was someone “I could trust with our story.” Te’o has only spoken out about this once before to ESPN, another network owned by Disney.

During the interview Te’o admits that he briefly lied to the media about the existence of his supposed girlfriend, even after he had learned that she never existed.

Deadspin broke the story earlier this month that Manti’s girlfriend Lennay Kekuka, who supposedly died from Leukemia on September 12 last year, was not a real person. On December 6, he learned that the hoax was perpetrated by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who used pictures of a classmate to represent Lennay, but mentioned his girlfriend while discussing his placement as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Put yourself in my situation. My whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12. Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?” 

Not dig yourself into a deeper hole, Manti? I believed the guy was lied to from the beginning, and it’s obvious that he couldn’t deal with the situation because everyone jumped to calling him stupid and asking how he could have had this relationship with a girl he never met. Was he trying to cover up something, was he in on it or trying to gain sympathy to get the Heisman? I think this Roniah guy needs to be answering questions, but of course he’s in hiding, so Te’o has to go out there and defend himself.

You can watch Katie’s interview with him Thursday on ABC.  IF you must.

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