On Friday night, Manti Te'o finally spoke out on the hoax involving his supposedly dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. During an interview with ESPN, Te'o admitted he "tailored" his stories about Kekua, whom he'd met online, to imply that he "met her before she passed away."
According to Te'o, he didn't know that Kekua didn't exist until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called the Notre Dame linebacker and confessed that he was behind the hoax. "I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this," Te'o insisted.
Breaking down linebacker Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend hoax
Te'o explained he received a direct message on Twitter from Tuiasosopo before the phone call, in which he learned Tuiasosopo admitted to creating Kekua, along with another man and a woman. Te'o denies knowing the identities of the other two perpetrators.
Many media outlets reported that Te'o and Kekua had met in person, for which Te'o is partially at fault. He had lied to his father about meeting Kekua, which led to his dad repeating the story to reporters. Te'o denies ever having told anyone that he "touched her hand," as reported in the South Bend Tribute
, which described the couples in-person meeting in detail.
In regards to altering his stories, Te'o explained, "That goes back to what I did with my dad. 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."
On Dec. 6, three months after he was told Kekua died, Te'o said he received a phone call from the number she had used. When Te'o answered, he heard a woman on the other end. "... She said, well, Manti, it's me. That's all she said," Te'o explained. "And I played stupid for a little bit. I was like, 'Oh, I know it's you, U'ilani (Kekua's alleged sister). What do you mean?' And she's like, 'No, Manti, it's me.' "
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"She said, 'It's Lennay,'" Te'o continued. "So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. 'How could you do this to me?' I ended that conversation by saying simply this: 'You know what? Lennay, my Lennay, died on Sept. 12.'"
Adding to his confusion, the person now claiming to be Kekua said she was hiding from "drug people" and showed him photographs of a different woman than the one he had seen before. "There were a whole bunch of possibilities going through my head," he said. "She could have died. This could be [U'ilani] trying to pull a stunt on me."
When asked what he wanted to happen to Tuiasosopo, Te'o said, "I hope he learned. 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."