NEW YORK — Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o insisted he had no role
in the bizarre hoax involving his “dead” girlfriend and told ESPN on Friday night that he was duped by a person [Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California] who has since apologized to him.
Te’o said he first met Tuiasosopo in person after the Southern California game in November. According to the linebacker, Tuiasosopo told him he was the cousin of Lennay Kekua, the woman who Te’o believed he had fallen for through Internet chats and long phone conversations. But Kekua never existed.
Te’o said he never met Kekua face-to-face and when he tried to speak with her via Skype and video phone calls, the picture was blocked. Still, he didn’t figure out the ruse.
He also told ESPN that he lied to his father about having met Kekua. To cover that up, he apparently lied to everyone else.
After he was told Kekua had died of leukemia in early September, Te’o admitted he misled the public about the nature of the “relationship” because he was uncomfortable saying it was purely an electronic romance.
“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,” he said. “So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away.”