Aside from a small statement released after the story broke, we haven’t really heard much from Manti Te’o. Last night he held an off camera interview (accompanied by his lawyer) with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap and explained his side of the story. Read more after the jump.
Te’o flat out denied being involved in the hoax. “No. Never,” Te’o said during the 2½-hour interview. “I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this.” However he did admit he “tailored” his stories so people would think he “met her before she passed away.”
An interesting detail he also mentioned was that he wasn’t 100% sure Lennay Kekua wasn’t real until about two days ago when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted he was behind the hoax. How he admitted it was also interesting.
Te’o said he received a Twitter direct message from Tuiasosopo where Tuiasosopo said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman. Te’o then talked to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday.
If he received a direct message from Tuiasosopo that would mean he was still following this person at least up until two days ago.
*The DM’s are in the gallery above*
Here are a few points Te’o laid out in the interview:
• He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that Te’o and Kekua had met. Several media stories indicated that Te’o 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.
• He planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.
• The first time he met Tuiasosopo was in Los Angeles. Notre Dame beat USC there on Nov. 24.
• A group of people connected to Tuiasosopo showed up at the team hotel, after curfew, 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 hotel lobby. Someone in the group called Te’o, saying they were waiting for Kekua to join them in the lobby and asking if she was with him. Te’o then hung up. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.
• Te’o was never asked for money during the plot, but Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money. Te’o did not provide his account number.
“That goes back to what I did with my dad,” Te’o said. “I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”
Things like this actually aren’t uncommon believe it or not. I want to believe Te’o’s account, he seems like such a genuine person, however there are some points that just make you question the whole thing.
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