Manti Te'o denies being part of hoax
Manti Te'o denied being part of a hoax involving a relationship with a person online whom he considered his girlfriend, during an interview with ESPN on Friday night.
"No. Never," Te'o said in a 2½-hour interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap.
"I wasn't faking it," he said. "I wasn't part of this."
The Notre Dame linebacker said he did not make up anything to help his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
"When (people) hear the facts, they'll know," he said. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."
Wednesday, Deadspin.com posted a story detailing an online relationship Te'o thought he had with "Lennay Kekua," which he says he learned was a hoax. Te'o spoke at the IMG Training Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he is preparing for the NFL draft. There were no cameras at the interview, which was recorded.
In the interview, Te'o also said that:
• He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that the two had met. Several media stories indicated that he 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.
• The first time he met Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Tuiasosopo is the man Deadspin and others have said was behind the hoax. Earlier Friday, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" reported that Tuiasosopo called a church friend in early December crying and admitted to duping Te'o. The friend, a woman in her mid-20s, agreed to be interviewed under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family's safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated.
Te'o spoke of Kekua as his girlfriend several times after Dec. 6. One was at the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York on Dec. 8 to ESPN's Chris Fowler. Another was on ESPN Radio the same day. There were two other times, including a column in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 10. He was also asked about it at a Jan. 3 news conference prior to the BCS title game but did not refer to his "girlfriend" directly.