‘Dr. Phil’ Producer Sues Gawker Media Over Manti Te'o Hoax Segment

'Dr. Phil' Producer Sues Gawker Media Over Manti Te'o Hoax Segment

Lawsuit claims that Deadspin published interview with Manti Te'o hoax perpetrator hours before it aired on "Dr. Phil"

Manti Te'o's girlfriend might have turned out to be fictional — but she's helped to spark a very real lawsuit.

Peteski Productions, one of the producers on syndicated talk show "Dr. Phil," has filed a suit against Gawker Media over an episode of the series that featured an interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who claimed to have perpetrated the girlfriend hoax against Te'o.

In the suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Texas on Tuesday, Peteski claims that Gawker-owned sports blog Deadspin published the Feb. 1 episode of "Dr. Phil" — on which Tuiasosopo demonstrated "the voice" of fake girlfriend Lennay Kekua, which he used to dupe Te'o — before the episode aired to most of its audience.

According to the lawsuit, Deadspin's early posting of the episode — the second of a two-part interview with Tuiasosopo — had a negative effect on the episode's ratings, because it spoiled the cliffhanger of whether he would demonstrate the Kekua voice.

Also read: Manti Te'o Interview With Katie Couric Gets the Autotune Treatment (Video)

"In a premeditated plan to steal Peteski's copyrighted material, Deadspin posted the video of the second show to the Deadspin blog not later than 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, hours before the Dr. Phil Show aired to over 98 percent of its viewers," the complaint reads. "Although the second show was expected to exceed the ratings number of the first show, in fact, the ratings declined substantially because the the result of the 'CLIFFHANGER' was no longer in doubt. It had been misappropriated by Deadspin."

The lawsuit, which characterizes Deadspin and Gawker as "serial copyright infringers," claims that Deadspin infringed the copyright on a "CBS This Morning" story involving Te'o as well.

Also read: Manti Te'o Rebounded With Real Woman After Fake Girlfriend's Fake Death (Report)

Te'o, formerly a linebacker on the Notre Dame football team and a Heisman Trophy finalist,  captured national attention with a heartstring-tugging story about how his "girlfriend" had died on the same day as his grandmother, and how he vowed not to miss any games as a promise to Kekua. He again gathered headlines when it was revealed that Kekua didn't exist, and Tuiasosopo subsequently admitted to perpetrating the hoax by luring Te'o into a bogus online relationship on "Dr. Phil."

Peteski is seeking unspecified damages in the suit.

Deadspin editor-in-chief Tommy Craggs has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

  • lerose55

    People that put themselves on Dr. Phil or any TV talk show, open their lives up, like an open book. No one twisted their arms to be on the show. These people wrote to the Dr. Phil Show of their own free will.
    Dr. Phil has helped people & not helped people it depends on the person whether they take advantage of the health facilities that he offers them free of cost, and follows through with the program.
    These programs are there for people to communicate, get their life on track, understand their problems & how to deal with lives disappointments. As far as suing Dr. Phil for the rehab programs he only suggested & paid the bill for them to get help, so take it or don't take it, its up to the individuals & their families. Rehabs cannot be easy to have to deal with all ones problems & admit they have a problem.
    I think people who followed the program, were to be interviewed you would see some positive results.
    People today do not have coping skills, and that needs to be taught, and yes a lot of times its the parents fault, they give, give, give until the child or teen feels entitled to everything, then when you say no, it opens a whole new can of worms. This causes the teen to (rebel w/ behavior problems, drugs, prostitution, running away death, etc) . They don't have the skills to work through it. Then you wind up with a teen that is out of control. Then on the other hand you have the parent w/ no coping or parenting skills and the child or teen winds up with a whole different set of problems (abuse, neglect, cruelty, torture, death) etc. When someone goes into a rehab, both sides need to be counseled, learn to communicate with each other, but it is best to separate the 2 to work out their own problems & then bring them together. They help you work on your strengths. And Dr. Phil always offers that help.
    In our World there are so many differences with people, and that produces many different opinions. So there will never be 100% of who right & who is wrong.
    You cannot be you child's friend first, you have to be the parent first.
    As someone stated that psychiatrist have mental problems, I think part of that is very true, because their job is not as easy as people think it is. Day in and day out they hear nothing but problems, the job has a lot of negative effects, I am sure it works on their own minds. Its a very depressing job, if you have a heart. I worked in the medical field all my life and a lot of psychiatrist are taking anti-depressants. Think about it, you would probably have to do the same. Its a thankless job.