Manti Te'o Denies 'Faking It' in Girlfriend Hoax, Admits He 'Tailored' Story
Notre Dame football star speaks to ESPN, denies involvement in hoax.
Jan. 19, 2013 — -- While Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o told ESPN that he "wasn't faking it" when he talked about his love for a woman who now appears to be part of an elaborate hoax involving an online relationship with a fictional girlfriend, he acknowledged that he had crafted stories about the woman he had called the love of his life.
Te'o admitted to a few mistakes in his own conduct, including telling his father he met "Lennay Kekua" in Hawaii even though his attempt to meet her actually failed. Later retellings of that tale led to inconsistencies in media reports, Te'o said, adding that he never actually met Kekua in person.
Te'o added that he feared people would think it was crazy for him to be involved with someone that he never met, so, "I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away."
Te'o said he only learned for sure this week that he had been duped.
"When they hear the facts, they'll know," Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap in his first interview since the story broke. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be a part of this."
"I wasn't faking it," he said during a 2 1/2-hour interview, according to ESPN.com.
On Wednesday, Te'o told Schaap he had received a Twitter message from a man he says was named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo apologizing for the hoax.
According to ESPN.com, Te'o also spoke to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday. He found out that "two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," he said. But he did not know the identities of the other individuals involved, other than the man he says was Tuiasosopo.
Te'o said he was not suspicious of the relationship until Dec. 6, when he received a phone call from a woman claiming she was Kekua, even though Kekua had allegedly passed away three months earlier.
"They said 'It's Lennay'. And so we carried on that conversation and I just got mad," Te'o told ESPN. "And I just went on a rampage. Like 'How could you do this to me?' I ended that conversation by saying simply this, 'You know what? Lennay, my Lennay died on September 12th.'"
The sports website Deadspin, which first revealed the hoax this week, has reported that Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old of Samoan descent who lives in Antelope Valley, Calif., asked a woman he knew for her photo and that photo became the face of Kekua's Twitter account.
Te'o told Schaap that Tuiasosopo was represented to him as Kekua's cousin.
"I hope he learns," Te'o said of Tuiasosopo, according to the interview on ESPN.com. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."
Te'o and Kekua's relationship got started on Facebook during his freshman year, he said to Schaap.
"My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship," Te'o said, according to ESPN.com. "There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end."
He showed Schaap Facebook correspondence indicating that other people knew of Kekua -- though Te'o now believes they, too, were tricked.
The relationship became more intense, Te'o said, after he received a call that Kekua was in a coma following a car accident involving a drunk driver on April 28.
Soon, Te'o and Kekua became inseparable over the phone, he said, continuing their phone conversations through her recovery from the accident, and then during her supposed battle against leukemia.
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