Home / National News / Manti Te'o Briefly Lied About Girlfriend After Hoax Discovery


(NEW YORK) — Manti Te’o admitted in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Katie Couric that he briefly lied to the press and the public after discovering his online girlfriend did not exist and was a part of an elaborate hoax.

The star Notre Dame linebacker, who has been hounded by reporters since the story broke on Jan. 16, told Couric in a taped interview Tuesday that up until December he was not lying.  Te’o said that was duped into believing his online girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of cancer.

“You stuck to the script.  And you knew that something was amiss, Manti,” Couric said.

“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.

Te’o said he received a phone call on Dec. 6 from a woman claiming she was Kekua, even though Kekua had allegedly passed away three months earlier.

“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 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.

Te’o was joined by his parents, Brian and Ottilia, in the interview.

“Now many people writing about this are calling your son a liar.  They are saying he manipulated the truth, really for personal gain,” Couric said to Te’o’s father.

“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.

Watch Katie Couric’s interview with Manti Te’o and his parents Thursday, Jan. 24.

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On Tuesday, Diane O’Meara told NBC’s Today show that she was used as the “face” of the Twitter account of Manti Te’o’s online girlfriend without her knowledge or consent.

O’Meara said that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating Kekua.

“I’ve never met Manti Te’o in my entire life.  I’ve never spoke with him.  I’ve never exchanged words with him,” O’Meara said Tuesday.

The 23-year-old marketing executive went to high school in California with Tuiasosopo, but she says they’re not close.  Tuiasosopo called to apologize the day Deadspin.com broke the hoax story, she said.

In an interview with ESPN last week, Manti Te’o said he had received a Twitter message from Tuiasosopo apologizing for the hoax.

According to ESPN.com, Manti Te’o also spoke to Tuiasosopo on the phone the day the Deadspin report came out.  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.

Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old resident of California, has not admitted involvement publicly.  Tuiasosopo graduated from Paraclete High School in Lancaster, Calif., in 2007, and has posted dozens of videos online signing Christian songs.

Those who knew him say he was a devout Christian and a good athlete.  His former football coach, Jon Flemming, described him as gregarious, and from a “good loving family.”  Flemming said Tuiasosopo is the kind of guy that gives you a hug when he sees people he knows.

“He’s doing good.  Wishing everyone would go away,” Flemming told ABC News on Wednesday after a recent correspondence with Tuiasosopo.

Flemming said Tuiasosopo is “somebody I’d want my kid to grow up like.  He’s responsible, respectful, disciplined, dedicated.”

Tessi Toluta’u, a Polynesian beauty queen, told ABC News over the weekend that “Lennay Kekua” reached out to her in 2008 about entering pageants.

When visiting Los Angeles in 2009, Toluta’u was supposed to meet Kekua, however she failed to appear.  Instead Tuiasosopo met Toluta’u instead.

“[It’s a] sick joke that went way too far,” Toluta’u said.

 Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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