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Manti Te’o finally talks about girlfriend hoax

Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o spoke for the first time since the hoax was made public on Friday night.  Te’o spoke for 2.5 hours with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap and Schaap said that he answered every question that he posed to him.  When Te’o was asked if he was ever involved in the hoax he said “No, never.”

Te’o told Schaap that he fabricated his relationship because he was embarrassed for having a girlfriend that he had never met before.

ESPN also reports that:

• He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that the two had met. Several media stories indicated that he 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.

• The first time he met Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Tuiasosopo is the man Deadspin and others have said was behind the hoax. Earlier Friday, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” reported that Tuiasosopo called a church friend in early December crying and admitted to duping Te’o. The friend, a woman in her mid-20s, agreed to be interviewed under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family’s safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated.

• A group of people, including a woman claiming to be Lennay, showed up at the team hotel for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te’o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the lobby of the hotel. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.

• “I knew that — I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet,” [Te’o] said. “And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn’t meet her as well.”

Schaap said that Te’o was not nervous during the interview and was composed and comfortable throughout the interview.  Te’o said that the relationship began on Facebook when he was a sophomore, and he occasionally talked to her, but eventually it progressed to something more serious.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called Te’o two days ago and apologized to him for being behind the hoax and Te’o showed Schaap Twitter messages from Tuiasosopo saying that he was sorry for doing this to him.

It should be noted that Te’o admitted he had another girlfriend this fall after “Lennay Kekua” supposedly passed away, and that Te’o is “hoping that this story simmers down” and “he can get on with his life.”

The only issue that really arose is that the timeline that Notre Dame gave is inconsistent with what Te’o has said, since he admitted that he believed the girl to be real until two days ago.

In the end, Te’o seems to be the victim in this situation, but let’s not sugar coat it.  He was pretty dense to believe that this girl existed until two days ago and for “falling in love” with someone he had never met or seen before.  His embarrassment and embellishment of his relationship with “Lennay Kekua” is understandable, but it has hurt his reputation.

Read the transcript of the interview here.


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