Manti Te’o tells Katie Couric he made misleading statements about girlfriend
By NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org January 23, 2013 9:42PM
KATIE COURIC, MANTI TE'O
Updated: February 25, 2013 12:47PM
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o admitted he misled reporters by referring to his ‘‘dead’’ girlfriend even after receiving a call Dec. 6 from a woman who claimed Lennay Kekua was alive.
In an interview with Katie Couric that will be broadcast Thursday, Te’o again insisted he played no part in creating an elaborate hoax that has made national headlines.
Te’o said that while he never met Kekua in person, he was convinced a relationship that started via social media and continued with phone calls and text messages was authentic.
‘‘Katie, put yourself in my situation,’’ Te’o said when pressed about his involvement in the hoax. ‘‘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.
‘‘Now I get a phone call on
Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive, and then I’m going to be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?’’
A few hours before the Heisman Trophy ceremony Dec. 8, Te’o maintained his girlfriend died of cancer.
‘‘Me, I don’t like cancer at all,’’ Teo told reporters, including a representative from the Sun-Times. ‘‘I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.’’
On Tuesday, Diane O’Meara, the woman whose image was used on the Twitter account of Te’o’s supposed girlfriend, told NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ that the man allegedly behind the scheme, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, confessed to her and apologized for using a photograph she gave him under false pretenses to perpetuate it.
Te’o has said he wasn’t fully convinced Kekua didn’t exist until last week, when Tuiasosopo admitted to him via Twitter he had invented her.
Brian Te’o defended his son when Couric suggested he might have played along with the scheme because the death of his girlfriend made for a compelling story and made him a sympathetic figure.
‘‘People can speculate about what they think he is,’’ a tearful Brian Te’o said. ‘‘I’ve known him 21 years of his life, and he’s not a liar.’’
Meanwhile, ESPN reported a source close to Te’o gave reporter Jeremy Schaap unverified phone records believed to be Te’o’s that show he made and received more than 1,000 calls from the same number that he thought belonged to Kekua. More than 100 of those calls lasted more than 60 minutes.