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Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o rose to fame this week, not over his skills of the football field but for an elaborate ‘hoax’ that was played on him. Te’o became the victim, he says, of a hoax by a woman, “Lennay Kekua” he met online (and called his girlfriend) and he believed had cancer. He goes on to say that he maintained a relationship with the woman, only online and believed she died last year, only for her to call him again a few months and reveal she did not die and he became was confused. Te’o sat down with ESPN for a 2 1/2 hour interview and revealed he didn’t know anything for sure until a man named, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo tweeted him and confessed. Te’o also admits lying to his family about meeting the “Lennay” so they wouldn’t think he was crazy for investing so much time in an online relationship. “I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”
Manti Te’o denied being part of a hoax involving a relationship with a person online whom he considered his girlfriend, during an interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap on Friday night, but did say he “tailored” his stories so people would think he “met her before she passed away.”
“No. Never,” Te’o said during the 2½-hour interview. “I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this.”
Te’o said he didn’t know for sure that “Lennay Kekua” never existed until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called Te’o and admitted he was behind the hoax.
Te’o said he received a Twitter direct message from Tuiasosopo where Tuiasosopo said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman. Te’o then talked to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday.
“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” Te’o said. Asked who they are, he said: “I don’t know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
In the interview, Te’o also said:
• He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that Te’o and Kekua had met. Several media stories indicated that Te’o and Kekua had met. Te’o insisted they never did.
• He tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a “black box” and wasn’t seen.
• He planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.
• The first time he met Tuiasosopo was in Los Angeles. Notre Dame beat USC there on Nov. 24.
• A group of people connected to Tuiasosopo showed up at the team hotel, after curfew, for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te’o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the hotel lobby. Someone in the group called Te’o, saying they were waiting for Kekua to join them in the lobby and asking if she was with him. Te’o then hung up. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.
• Te’o was never asked for money during the plot, but Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money. Te’o did not provide his account number.
Read the entire interview at ESPN.
If he is telling the truth I truly feel for him, he was just too naive. The real question is…why?