Manti Te’o on Friday denied he was involved in a hoax involving his nonexistent girlfriend who supposedly died of leukemia and said he was not sure his “girlfriend” never really existed until hours before the Deadspin story was published on Wednesday.
Te’o spoke to a reporter for the first since that Deadspin story on Wednesday revealed his girlfriend, who supposedly died of leukemia, never existed when he spoke to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. According to ESPN, Te’o participated in an off-camera interview that was recorded. The interview lasted over two hours.
“I wasn’t faking it,” Te’o told the network. “I wasn’t part of this.”
According to Te’o, he “didn’t know for sure that ‘Lennay Kekua’ never existed until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called Te’o and admitted he was behind the hoax.” Te’o told ESPN “he received a direct message from Tuiasosopo on Twitter where Tuiasosopo said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman.” Te’o said Tuiasosopo called him to apologize on Wednesday.
“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” Te’o said. “I don’t know [who they are]. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
According to ESPN, in the interview, Te’o revealed:
• He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that Te’o and Kekua had met. Several media stories indicated that Te’o and Kekua had met. Te’o insisted they never did.
• He tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a “black box” and wasn’t seen.
Te’o said he lied to his father and tailored his story to make people think he had met Kekua before her death so people would not think he was “some crazy dude.”
Te’o’s relationship with Kekua allegedly started when she sent him a Facebook message his freshman year at Notre Dame.
Te’o said after his grandmother died, he got into an argument with “Lennay.” Later that day, he received a call in the Notre Dame locker room informing him that “Lennay” died. He said the last thing “Lennay” said to him was, “just know that I love you.”
According to ESPN, Te’o said on Dec. 6, Te’o said “Lennay” called him and said she had something to tell him but “it could wait until after the national title game on Jan. 8.”
Te’o allegedly got upset and told “Lennay” that “my Lennay died on Sept. 12.”
When asked about Tuiasosopo, Te’o told ESPN: “I hope he learns. 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.”