NEW YORK (WFAN) – Katie Couric joined the “Boomer & Carton” program one day after her much-anticipated interview with Manti Te’o aired Thursday.
By now we all know of Te’o's not-so-real girlfriend and her not-so-real death from leukemia. The Heisman Trophy runner-up admitted to briefly prolonging his heartbreaking story after learning “Lennay Kekua” wasn’t dead — and was in fact an entirely different person.
Te’o reiterated that he wasn’t in on the hoax, telling Couric he was “scared” and “didn’t know what to do” after someone claiming to be Kekua called on Dec. 6.
“I really don’t think he was involved in it,” Couric told WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on Friday.
(You can download the interview HERE.)
During the interview, Couric touched on speculation that Te’o may have made the whole thing up to hide his sexual orientation.
Couric said there wasn’t any internal debate about asking “Are you gay?” The Notre Dame linebacker responded, “No. Far from it. Far from that.”
“No, not really,” Couric said. “We didn’t have a big conversation about it. We knew that from reading what was out there … that was one of the theories. (It was) not particularly substantiated — or substantiated at all, by the way. But because that was some of the speculation I thought we should ask him about that.”
Te’o’s story hit the national stage after an emotional win over Michigan State in Sept., following the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day. Kekua’s passing — now known to be fiction — was widely reported, and some believe bolstered his candidacy for the Heisman.
“What am I going to do, strap a lie detector on this guy?” Couric told Boomer and Carton. “I mean, I think he was really telling the truth about most of the things we discussed. I think that there was a lot of embarrassment and shame. I think he knows that he behaved in a way that raises a lot of questions. But I really don’t think he concocted this as a way to enhance his profile or make him look like a sympathetic, almost mythic character.”
Couric landed the first on-camera interview with Te’o since Deadspin.com broke the story of the elaborate deception.
The hour-long exclusive featured three voicemails that Te’o said he received from “Kekua” last year. Te’o's parents also appeared on the show, saying they were also duped and talked to someone who they believed to be Kekua.
“I really didn’t spend a lot of time with him before or after the interview,” Couric said of Te’o. “I didn’t want to have conversations with him that I thought were important and not have them on television. During the commercial breaks I would say ‘Are you OK? Do you need some water?’ But I really didn’t get to know him so I can’t make a fair assessment of his character. All I can tell you is what I heard while I was sitting with him and with his mom and dad.”
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s lawyer told the New York Daily News that it was Ronaiah, the alleged hoax mastermind, on the other end of the phone calls. But the New York Post, citing Tuiasosopo’s relatives, reported that Ronaiah’s cousin, Tino Tuiasosopo, was behind the voice of Kekua.
“Well, it didn’t sound like a man,” Te’o told Couric. “It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that’s incredible. That’s an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day.”
Couric asked Boomer and Carton why some were so quick to say Te’o concocted the story. Whether or not he was somehow involved in the hoax has been a hot subject of debate, though Notre Dame and Te’o have maintained he was the victim of a cruel ruse.
“I think that people are so quick to — I don’t know. We’re a nation of judgers and people who I think always think the worst in people sometimes,” Couric said.
Time to cut Te’o some slack? Be heard in the comments…