Te'o Breaks His Silence About 'Fake' Girlfriend
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Given the worldwide attention given to Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, it was inevitable the football star would break his silence sooner rather than later. Last night, Te'o sat down for an off-camera interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, where he admitted to lyng about actually meeting Kekua because he believed his friends, family and coaches would think he was "crazy" for engaging in an intense relationship with someone he'd never met. But, throughout the interview, Te'o maintains he was not complicit in perpetuating the story for personal gain.
"I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this," Te'o tells ESPN's Jeremy Schapp, insisting he was duped by the online hoax, now commonly referred to as "Catifshing," thanks to the documentary and MTV show of the same name.
"She friend requested me on Facebook the winter of my freshman year at Notre Dame," Te'o explains. "We spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone and talked on the phone, texted. But it's always as acquaintances, as friends. And then she contacted me that Purdue game and she just said 'Hey, how are you doing? I'm going through some hard times with my boyfriend' -- at the time she had a boyfriend at the time. And just want you to be there for me, just be my friend. I said sure, I'll be here for you."
Te'o clarifies that the duration of the relationship has been widely misreported, saying that their were large chunks of time they went without speaking throughout the four year period in question.
Then, during Te'o's junior year at Notre Dame, Kekua (who is now believed to be a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and at least one female accomplice) reconnected with him. "We spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone and talked on the phone, texted. But it's always as acquaintances, as friends ... And eventually we just kept talking and kept talking and kept talking. Everything kind of changed a little when her dad passed away. She told me her dad passed away, and I was there. I was just being that shoulder to cry on ... And so our relationship kind of took another level. But not the kind of exclusive level yet. I was trying to get to know her and get to know a whole bunch of other people. And for that period of time we talked and talked and got to know each other better and better and better. And everything changed April 28th. I got a phone call from her brother that she had got in the car accident."
Te'o says that Kekua's brother acted as an intermediary between them throughout her hospitalization. "I would ask to talk to her, and the only communication I had was through her brother and he used her phone," Te'o says. "He would put me supposedly right next to her mouth and I could hear the ventilator going. And she would be breathing ... They were telling me, 'Bro, she recognized your voice. We know she's there. We know she can hear you.' She would quicken her voice. And I heard it on the phone. They would do it to me. And so that was my communication while she was in a coma."
When asked by Schaap why Te'o didn't think to visit her, he says, "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school. I was finishing up my year and I was going home. It was towards the end of my junior year. End of my junior year, and I was about to go home. When I decided to go home, the day that I decided to -- the day I left to go home -- they called me and said that that was the same day that they were going to pull the plug. And so it intensifies the whole thing. I'm on the plane. I figured they're about to pull the plug on someone ... All my focus went just to her, in caring for her. Making sure she was OK. Whenever you feel that you're about to lose somebody, you know, reality kicks in, and it's like, okay, I'm going to be here for her, take care of her. And so my focus turned straight to Lennay."