Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has admitted to a TV talk show host that he answered questions about his “dead” online girlfriend even after he received a call on Dec. 6 from a woman posing as the fake person.
Te’o also maintained he played no part in the hoax.
Pressed by Katie Couric on her talk show to admit that he was in on the deception, the college football star said he was convinced the woman he knew as Lennay Kekua died in September. Te’o claims he never met Kekua in person, but developed a serious relationship with her through phone calls and electronic messages.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12,” Te’o said in an interview to air yesterday on Couric’s US show.
A segment of the interview with Te’o and his parents was broadcast on Wednesday.
“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive, and then I’m going be put on national TV [for the Heisman Trophy presentation] two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?” Te’o asked.
Te’o made at least three references to his girlfriend in media interviews after Dec. 6, including during ESPN’s Heisman show on Dec. 8.
Te’o’s father defended his son when Couric pointed out that many people do not believe the player, suspecting he used the situation for personal gain.
“People can speculate about what they think he is. I’ve known him 21 years of his life. And he’s not a liar. He’s a kid,” Brian Te’o said with tears in his eyes.
On Tuesday, the woman whose photo was used as the “face” of the Twitter account of Te’o’s supposed girlfriend says the man allegedly behind the hoax confessed and apologized to her.
Diane O’Meara told NBC’s Today show that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating a fake woman called Lennay Kekua.
Speaking to CNN on Wednesday she said that she barely knew Tuiasosopo from high school, but that when he apologized to her he admitted he had stalked her Facebook profile for five years before using her face for Kekua.
“He reached out to me a day or two days before the story broke and relayed to me that he in fact was stalking my profile for five years taking my photos and he created this identity that was not me — it was this Lennay Kekua with my face on it,” O’Meara said.
“It’s unnerving. It’s very frustrating. Even still when I see the photos and when I see how they’ve been exposed all over the media, it’s hard,” she said.
Te’o told ESPN that Tuiasosopo apologized to him for the hoax in a Twitter message, but Tuiasosopo has not admitted publicly any involvement in the hoax.