All-Star Panel: Debate over Manti Te'o girlfriend 'hoax'

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 17, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK SWARBRICK, NOTRE DAME ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: Manti is the victim of that hoax, and he will carry that with him for a while. In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is a very strange story. A lot of people are talking about it. Notre dame all-American linebacker Manti Te'o about a girlfriend that he never had, and now it turns out -- well, he put out this statement.  "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was a victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating...In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was."

Well, it turns out, the Associated Press did some digging. And Manti Te'o talked twice in interviews after finding out that apparently this was a hoax, that the girl didn't exist, about his girlfriend, twice -- not once, but twice.

We're back with the panel. The White House did talk about this from the briefing room so we tangentially tied it to Washington, sort of.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: But otherwise, we just couldn't resist. Right?

BAIER: And we couldn't not talk about it. And we have professional guidance from -- what do you think, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I did see and hear strange stories when I was a psychiatrist, but this one, I'd probably resign the case, because there are only three explanations -- the guy is dangerously naive, deeply deceptive, or delusional. Dangerously naive, but then how could he have spoken about her twice after he learned it was a hoax? The deceptive still is out there, but it requires some craziness to think that this isn't going to be discovered. This is -- a person who dies. It's checkable.

And the last is, I mean you almost have to go that he is delusional, but obviously there is nothing in his life that would indicate he is. I mean, when he goes after a quarterback to tackle him he doesn't, you know, run after a ghost at the other end of the field. He goes -- the guy lives in the real world it seems. I have no explanation. I guess the real question is the only one we ever ask since Watergate, what did he know and when did he know it? And who was behind this?

BAIER: Mara?

LIASSON: Yeah, and he certainly knew it before he stopped talking about it, which is the most bizarre aspect of this whole thing. The motivations of his handlers and the Notre Dame athletic department I think are more easy to describe as venal since they are involved in the star-making machinery and want him to be sympathetic and with this amazing back-story as they can.

I think it's just a disgrace. This comes after Lance Armstrong, which is different. That was true venality, and illegal activity. But why this guy was so invested in the story and had to continue it even after he knew that it was a hoax is just inexplicable to me.

BAIER: Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: Well, it's explicable if it's part of publicity campaign designed to gin up sympathy preparatory to winning the Heisman. I'm not saying it is, but that certainly would make sense considering so much sports coverage is not just about the sport itself but about the back-story as Mara said -- she's not just a long jumper, but she's a survivor. She came this far. We learn so much about the lives of the athletes, and all of this is designed to make us sympathize with them personally.

He apparently spoke about the death of his girlfriend -- and I don't think we ought to assume it was a woman, by the way -- who apparently, supposedly died the same day as his grandmother and this made him a sympathetic victim.  It's possible he was not simply the victim of the hoax but its perpetrator.  And we should also remember, Charles said -- this is checkable, but the point is nobody checked it because many so-called sports reporters do a form of adulatory journalism that doesn't contain any checking at all. It's designed to slobber over the athletes and that's it. It's not journalism.

BAIER: So how does this end Charles? He is up for the NFL draft.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's going to end on Oprah.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Good guess!

BAIER: She gets them all.

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: In this case, he is still a great athlete, unlike Lance Armstrong. In this case, he is still --

KRAUTHAMMER: Now he is a great weird athlete.

BAIER: We were going to save it for the Friday Lightning Round but there was too much to talk about.

OK, that is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see which politician is making headlines now. 

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