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Lafave interview set for big day at 'Today'

Published September 7, 2006

[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Debra Lafave, with her attorney John Fitzgibbons, at a hearing in March.

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If you ever had any doubt that the Debra Lafave case remains an attention-getting subject nationwide, consider this: Today show anchor Matt Lauer’s interview with the former Greco Middle School schoolteacher who seduced her 14-year-old student will air Wednesday, on one of the biggest days in the program’s recent history.

That’s when co-host Meredith Vieira joins Lauer, Ann Curry and Al Roker as the replacement for new CBS anchor Katie Couric. And to hear Lauer tell it, his interview with Lafave – to be featured in a five-minute Today segment Wednesday morning and in an hourlong Dateline NBC special at 8 p.m. Wednesday – is worth the featured status.

"I don’t really know what people are expecting to see from Debra Lafave," said Lauer, who spoke about the interview during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “Are they expecting to see someone who is the devil? I don’t think you’ll see that. I think you see someone who clearly is mixed up, who is clearly willing to admit that she made a horrendous mistake and is willing to accept the consequences for it.”

One part of Lafave’s story Lauer expects to explore, particularly on Dateline, is the notion that an ill-treated case of bipolar disorder contributed to her illegal relationship. “She clearly thinks and her lawyers clearly think that contributed greatly to her behavior,” said Lauer, who came to Tampa in August to interview LaFave at the Westin Harbour Island hotel and at her Riverview home. 

Because Lafave is under house arrest, Lauer and NBC got permission for the interview from Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman, who accepted her guilty plea to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in November, as previously reported in this St. Petersburg Times story.

“We did our homework and talked to some experts on that subject who say yes, you can exhibit risky behavior,” Lauer added. “She was very open...extremely open and willing to talk about what happened, willing to take responsibility and…I know it will be a great segment for us on the Today show.”

[Last modified September 8, 2006, 07:15:02]

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