Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o says he briefly lied about his online girlfriend after discovering she didn’t exist, while maintaining he had no part in creating the hoax.
Pressed by TV interviewer Katie Couric to admit he was in on the deception, Te’o said he believed his girlfriend Lennay Kekua had died of cancer and didn’t lie about it until December.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on September 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on September 12,” Te’o said in an interview to air on Thursday on Couric’s syndicated talk show.
A segment of the interview with Te’o and his parents has been broadcast on Good Morning America.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up said he only learned of the hoax when he received a phone call in December from a woman saying she was Kekua.
“Now I get a phone call on December 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?” Te’o said.
An Associated Press review of news coverage found the Heisman Trophy runner-up talked about his doomed love in a Web interview on December 8 and again in a newspaper interview published on December 10.
Te’o’s father defended his son when Couric pointed out that many people don’t believe him, 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.
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 has confessed and apologised 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.