Katie Couric Scores Manti Te’o Interview (They Share a Publicist, BTW)

So Manti Te’o, who most Americans believe to be a big old liar, visited Katie Couric‘s office for his first official post-scandal interview, set to air tomorrow. While we’re interested in the fact that he admitted to “briefly” lying about the fake dead girlfriend hoax for six weeks after learning that he’d been duped (yeah right), we’d like to examine the “Inside PR” aspects of the story.

We love Katie and all, but no one would call her a sports journalist–and we don’t feel like the scandal is quite big enough to justify a trip to Oprah-land (though the Te’o family apparently considered Oprah and Dr. Phil before settling for Couric). So how did she score this top interview? Well, the fact that the two parties share a publicist certainly didn’t hurt. That’s right–Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies (MediaBeat interview after the jump) now performs crisis comms/damage control duties for both Couric and Te’o, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Te’o chose Couric over both Oprah and ESPN.

Is this standard operating procedure? Or does it raise even more questions about the players involved in this sordid tale?

An anonymous source told USA Today that the whole point of the interview was “simply to tell the truth”. Hmm…

The ways in which the narrative came together are nearly as fascinating as the subject itself. Manti’s representative first went to ESPN with a hint that things were amiss in December, but the network didn’t want to run the story until they could score a video interview to go along with it. This is one of the reasons why Deadspin (and now Katie Couric) beat them to it–and Teo’s initial refusal to sit with ESPN displays a clear and, frankly, desperate desire to control the message.

Look, the need for Te’o and Notre Dame to limit the damage done is understandable, and it certainly doesn’t seem like Katie “went soft” on Manti, but the shared publicist only makes the Te’o family’s transparency claims less believable. They claim that they want to use the press to “show how the scandal has hurt them”, but we just don’t think Manti’s “Put yourself in my situation…What would you do?” plea will suffice.

Maybe Te’o and Lance Armstrong missed the same lesson: If you’re not ready to tell the whole damn truth, then you probably shouldn’t sit on the couch in the first place–no matter which interviewer you choose.

…and as a bonus, here’s the first part of Mediabistro‘s Media Beat interview with Matthew Hiltzik: