Manti Te’o says he had no part in creating the fake girlfriend whose “death” propelled his college football career and Heisman Trophy bid into the national conversation.
Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o denies he was in on the dead girlfriend hoax that has rattled football fans around the world.
Addressing several seeming inconsistencies in his story that pointed towards his involvement in the hoax, Te’o told ESPN that he did lie — but not about his knowledge of his whether or not Lennay Kekua was real.
“I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this,” Te’o told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. “When (people) hear the facts, they’ll know. They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”
Te’o said he told his father he had met Kekua in person even though he hadn’t because he was embarrassed. His father then told media the two had met. Attempts to Skype and FaceTime with Kekua were unsuccessful, he said, and each meeting they arranged was called off by the person purporting to be Kekua at the last minute.
He did admit to altering his story so people would think they had met, but now says they never did.
“That goes back to what I did with my dad,” Te’o said. “I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”
Months after Kekua’s reported Sept. 12 death, Te’o received a phone call from a woman claiming to be his girlfriend and told his parents and Notre Dame staff, who began an investigation. However, he still referred to Kekua and her death in interviews surrounding his Heisman Trophy bid and claims it was because he didn’t know how to handle it.
“I didn’t know, myself. I didn’t know what to believe,” Te’o said. “All I knew for sure in my head was that she died on Sept. 12.”
The football star then showed the reporter a series of private messages on Twitter from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who has admitted he was behind the hoax.
“I hope he learns,” Te’o said. “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.”