In his first on-camera interview, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o admitted to Katie Couric that he lied about his online girlfriend after learning that she didn’t exist but insisted that he had no part in the hoax.
Te’o told Couric, in an interview that will appear on her syndicated show “Katie” on Thursday, that he believed Lennay Kekua had died of cancer in September, when he spoke of her death and the Fighting Irish used it as a rallying point, and didn’t lie about it until December.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12,” Te’o said, in a clip shown on “Good Morning America.”
He continue to maintain that he learned of the hoax when a woman saying she was Kekua shocked him by calling him just before the Heisman Trophy ceremony. He was runnerup in voting for the award.
“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.
Te’o, in New York for the presentation and for other award presentations in December, was asked repeatedly about his girlfriend and he kept up the ruse, which did not come to light until last week when Deadspin reported it.
“People can speculate about what they think he is,” Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, tearfully told Couric. “I’ve known him 21 years of his life. And he’s not a liar. He’s a kid.”
Diane O’Meara, the woman whose picture was used to perpetrate the hoax, told the “Today” show that never met Te’o, never communicated with him. Both O’Meara, who said she has been in a relationship for five years, and Te’o contend they were the victims of a hoax by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who hasn’t spoken on the matter. She knew Tuiososopo in high school and told “Today” that she hadn’t heard from him in five years.