Te'o tells Couric he didn't help concoct hoax - NBC Sports

Te'o tells Couric he didn't help concoct hoax
Notre Dame linebacker also denies rumor he used ruse to cover up homosexuality
Reuters
ABC's Katie Couric interviews Note Dame football star Manti Te'o and his parents, Brian and Ottilia Te'o during an exclusive taped interview in New York in this ABC handout.
January 24, 2013, 10:01 pm

Former star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o told Katie Couric on her syndicated talk show he did not play a part in the dead girlfriend hoax.

"What people don't realize is the same day everyone found out is the same day I found out," Te'o said.

"I didn't lie. I was never asked if I ever met her in person," Te'o said. "The biggest lie I'm sorry for is what I told me dad. He asked if I met her and I told him 'yes.'"

Couric also asked Te'o if there was any truth to the rumor that he concocted a fake girlfriend to cover up being homosexual.

"Are you gay?" Couric asked. "No, far from it. Faaaar from it," Te'o responded.

Couric asked Te'o if he was trying to make himself a "sympathetic figure" with the story. Te'o replied that he only wanted to be an "inspiration" to his fans.

Te'o told Couric that his friends knew that he was purportedly in a relationship with the fake woman, named Lennay Kekua.

"It's been hard, been difficult," the Heisman Trophy runnerup told Couric about the media uproar over the story.

Te'o admitted to Couric he answered questions about his "dead," online girlfriend even after he received a call Dec. 6 from a woman posing as the fake person.

Pressed by Couric to admit that he was in on the deception, the All-American said he was convinced the woman he knew as Lennay died in September. Te'o claims he never met Kekua in person but developed a serious relationship with her through phone calls and electronic messages.

"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 told Couric. A segment of the interview with Te'o and his parents was broadcast Wednesday on "Good Morning America."

"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.

Asked why he never went to meet Lennay in the hospital after she was in a car accident, Te'o said logistics didn't allow for him to see her.

Couric told Te'o that she reviewed phone records that verified that he had long phone conversations with Lennay.

After Kekua came out of a coma and was diagnosed with leukemia, Te'o said, "How could all this happen to one person?"

Couric played voicemail recordings of Lennay, and Te'o told Couric the voicemails sounded like a woman and not Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the purported mastermind behind the hoax.

The Heisman Trophy finalists made at least three references to his girlfriend in media interviews after Dec. 6, including during ESPN's Heisman presentation show on Dec. 8.

Couric asked Te'o why he didn't tell anyone that he had received a phone call Dec. 6 from Kekua, who supposedly had died in December.

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"Is this real, is there blackmail, is this a sick joke?" Te'o's father, Brian Te'o, told Couric about his fears after hearing that Kekua was alive.

Te'o's mother, Ottilia Te'o, told Couric she was "proud of his character. It hurts to see his character and his name being portrayed as someone who's not honest."

"The greatest joy in any child's life is to make their parents proud and the greatest pain is to see your parents hurt because of what you did," Manti Te'o told Couric.

Te'o's father defended his son when Couric pointed out that many people don't believe the Irish star, 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.

On Tuesday, 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 confessed and apologized to her.

Diane O'Meara told NBC's "Today" show that Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating Lennay Kekua.

Tuiasosopo has not commented on the scheme.

"Only in these times do you realize who's in your corner, who actually loves you, who's always been there," Te'o said.

Couric asked if Te'o was worried if the controversy would affect his NFL draft status, to which Te'o replied, "I don't know. As far as my draft status, I hope good happens, but as long as my family is OK, then I'm OK."

The top FBI agent in northern Indiana said authorities don't believe a crime was committed, so there is no investigation.

"I don't think there was any financial harm to Mr. Te'o," said Robert Ramsey, FBI supervisory special agent for northern Indiana. "There was no federal violation regarding the Internet hoax perpetrated against Mr. Te'o."

If there had been a crime, it would fall under federal jurisdiction, he said.

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