Manti Te'o logged hours on phone
Manti Te'o and the woman whose picture was used to portray his fake girlfriend appeared in separate television interviews Wednesday to describe their roles in the hoax, while what a source said are phone records may give credence to Te'o's assertion that he spent hours on the phone with someone he thought was Lennay Kekua.
A source close to Te'o gave ESPN's Jeremy Schaap documents that the source says are Te'o's AT&T phone records from May 11 to Sept. 12, the date that the woman was supposed to have died. The logs are not originals, but spreadsheets sent via emails, and could not be independently verified.
The records show that in that four-month span -- when Te'o has said he believed Lennay Kekua to be in a Los Angeles hospital recovering from an accident and being treated for cancer -- Te'o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length from the same number in the 661 area code. The 661 area code covers Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The source told Schaap that Te'o believed the 661 phone number in question was Kekua's.
Of these calls, 110 were more than 60 minutes in length, including several that were several hundred minutes long. In an ESPN interview Friday, and in interviews with both ESPN and Sports Illustrated last fall, Te'o said he was on the phone "every single night" with a person he believed to be Kekua, often for long stretches late at night.
On Friday, he said to Schaap, "I'd be on the phone. And she had complications from the accident and, she said the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone. So I would be on the phone, and I'd have the phone on the whole night."
From the records, it does not appear that Te'o was on the phone every single night for the entire night. But the volume of calls and their duration is sizable.
Nobody has stepped forward as the voice of the woman who posed as Te'o's girlfriend.
The woman whose photo was used as the "face" of the Twitter account of Te'o's supposed girlfriend made an appearance Wednesday, saying the man allegedly behind the hoax confessed and apologized to her.
Diane O'Meara told NBC's "Today" show that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating Kekua.
O'Meara also said that she had been asked to send pictures of her showing support for Tuiasosopo's cousin, who he said had been injured in a car crash, by holding up a sign saying "MSMK." Asked why she would send the photo, she said, "We're raised to be polite," and added that she almost would feel guilty if she hadn't sent it.
The original Deadspin.com story on the hoax reported a similar scenario and posted similar photos, although O'Meara was not identified by name at that time. The site reported that the "MSMK" photo was briefly used as a Twitter avatar and background for a Kekua account.
But that is not the only way it appears to have been used. In Te'o's interview with Schaap on Friday night, Te'o said he explicitly requested such a photo of Kekua after she re-emerged Dec. 6. He asked that the photo have her initials (Lennay is a nickname) held up to the camera to prove to him she was who she said she was.
"So I told her, 'OK, take another picture. And this time I want you to hold a paper up with your initials, MSMK, which is her initials, the date and you throwing up the sign,'" Te'o said during the two-and-a-half-hour interview.
It is unclear whether it is actually O'Meara holding the sign with the date Dec. 21 in the photo or whether the image was Photoshopped.
O'Meara also said she doesn't know whether Te'o was involved, but: "If Manti is truly innocent, I empathize with him."
For his part, Te'o, in a TV interview with Katie Couric, reiterated that he lied about his online girlfriend after the Dec. 6 phone call indicated that she may be alive, while maintaining that he had no part in creating the hoax.
The interview, which airs Thursday on Couric's syndicated television show, put Te'o and his parents in front of television cameras for the first time since the incident. Portions of the interview were broadcast Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
In the portions released, Te'o told a story similar to the one he told in an off-camera interview with ESPN last week -- namely, that he believes Kekua had died of cancer in September, but he was confused by the Dec. 6 phone call in which she claimed to be alive.
Pressed by Couric to admit that he was in on the deception, Te'o said that he believed Kekua had died of cancer and that he didn't conceal the truth that she didn't exist until December.
"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. The Heisman Trophy runner-up said he only learned of the hoax when he received the phone call in December from a woman saying she was Kekua.
"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.
At the Heisman Trophy presentation Dec. 8 in New York, ESPN's Chris Fowler asked Te'o what moment of his very public story of tragedy he would remember.
"I think I'll never forget the time when I found out that, you know, my girlfriend passed away and the first person to run to my aid was my defensive coordinator, Coach [Bob] Diaco, and you know, he said something very profound to me," Te'o said. "He said, 'This is where your faith is tested.' Right after that, I ran into the players' lounge and I got on the phone with my parents -- and I opened my eyes and my head coach was sitting right there. And so, you know, there are a hundred-plus people on our team, and the defensive coordinator and our head coach took time to just go get one [of those players]. You know, I think that was the most meaningful to me."
Te'o also said on ESPN Radio the same day that he hoped his grandmother, who died Sept. 12, and his girlfriend, who was reported to have died on the same day, were proud of him.
Te'o spoke extensively with ESPN on Friday and was photographed but would not agree to do a video interview.
Te'o's father defended his son when Couric pointed out that many people don't believe the Irish star, suspecting that 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.
Information from ESPN's Jeremy Schaap and The Associated Press was used in this report.