Tuiasosopo: Te'o not involved
In an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw that will air Thursday, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo says the voice of Manti Te'o's "girlfriend," Lennay Kekua, was his and that the star Notre Dame linebacker had no role in the hoax.
Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love. I asked him straight up, 'Was this a romantic relationship with you?' And he says yes. I said, 'Are you then therefore gay?' And he said, 'When you put it that way, yes.' And then he caught himself and said 'I am confused.'Dr. Phil McGraw, on Ronaiah Tuiasosopo
The first of McGraw's two-part interview with Tuiasosopo will air Thursday on the "Dr. Phil" show. McGraw appeared Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today" show, which aired two clips of the Tuiasosopo interview.
"There were many times when Manti and Lennay have broken up," Tuiasosopo said, "but something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or Lennay's life or in this case my life."
McGraw said Tuiasosopo told him he fell deeply in love with Te'o and that for Tuiasosopo it was a romantic relationship.
"Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love," McGraw told NBC. "I asked him straight up, 'Was this a romantic relationship with you?' And he says yes. I said, 'Are you then therefore gay?' And he said, 'When you put it that way, yes.' And then he caught himself and said 'I am confused.' "
McGraw told NBC that Te'o "absolutely, unequivocally" wasn't involved in the hoax.
One theory for the hoax is that Te'o was trying to cover up a homosexual relationship. In her TV interview with Te'o last week, Katie Couric asked him if he was gay.
"No, far from it," he said. "Faaaaarrrr from it."
Tuiasosopo told McGraw that as Te'o became more famous he knew that the online hoax he started more than two years ago was going to blow up.
Tuiasosopo said: "I wanted to end it because after everything I had gone through I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life and had to get ... you know, my real me, Ronaiah ... I just had to start living and let this go."
McGraw said he spent time with Tuiasosopo and his parents.
"Ronaiah had a number of life experiences that damaged this young man in some very serious ways," he said.
Last week, relatives of Tuiasosopo's female cousin, Tino Tuiasosopo, told the New York Post that they were certain it was her voice on at least one of the taped phone conversations. And after Te'o told Couric he believed the voice of Kekua was that of a woman, ABC's "Good Morning America" sent the tapes to four audio experts, who all agreed it was a woman.
As Notre Dame rose to No. 1 in the AP Top 25, sportswriters nationwide recounted the story of the heroic, grieving athlete who persevered on the field after his "girlfriend" was diagnosed with leukemia and died. Te'o and his family provided them with plenty of stories about the relationship, and no one figured out that it was fiction until Deadspin.com broke the story earlier this month.
Te'o, in his interview with Couric, reiterated that he lied about his online girlfriend after the Dec. 6 phone call indicated that she might be alive, while maintaining that he had no part in creating the hoax.
The interview, which aired on Couric's syndicated television show, put Te'o and his parents in front of television cameras for the first time since the incident.
Te'o told a story similar to the one he told in a previous off-camera interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap -- namely, that he believed 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.
The woman whose photo was used as the "face" of the Twitter account of Te'o's supposed girlfriend said last week that Tuiasosopo confessed and apologized to her. Diane O'Meara told the "Today" show that Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating Kekua.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.