In a Tuesday interview with Katie Couric, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o admitted Tuesday to briefly lying to the media after discovering his online girlfriend was a hoax.
“You stuck to the script. And you knew that something was amiss, Manti,” Couric said.
Te’o said he met “Lennay Kekua” online in 2009, and they began dating in 2011. He also admitted to leading friends and family to believe that he had met Lennay at least once, in an attempt to make the relationship more credible.
Then, on Sept. 12 2012, he was told by Lennay’s so-called family members that she had died of leukemia. Te’o, whose grandmother had also just passed, referred to the two personal losses during a pre-game interview soon afterward as a source of motivation.
Te’o said he discovered that Kekua had a hoax on Dec. 6, but he mentioned his girlfriend again two days later in a TV interview. The TV appearance came as Te’o was in contention for the Heisman Trophy, leading some to question whether Te’o continued to use the story for personal benefit. Te’o finished as the Heisman runner-up.
“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.
“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.
Reportedly, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old California resident, perpetrated the hoax on Te’o, using pictures of a female friend, Diane O’Meara, to create a fictional persona.
O’Meara told NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday that Tuiasosopo used her as the “face” of the Twitter account of Lennay Kekua without her knowledge or consent.
“I’ve never met Manti Te’o in my entire life. I’ve never spoke with him. I’ve never exchanged words with him,” O’Meara said.