The strange and twisted Manti Te'o saga took another series of WTF turns on Thursday, and we're back to bring you up to speed.
First up: Te'o apparently spent more than 500 hours on the phone with his fake, social media hoax of a girlfriend -- who wasn't even being impersonated by a woman.
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According to multiple reports, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- the scam's alleged puppet master -- played the part of Lennay Kekua during more than 1,000 intimate phone calls Te'o says he legitimately thought he was sharing with his girlfriend between from last May through September, when she fake died in a fake car crash.
Tuiasosopo's lawyer told the New York Daily News that his client had disguised his voice to dupe Te'o. ESPN reported Wednesday that it obtained documents showing the two had spent hundreds of hours conversing.
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Katie Couric -- whose extended Thursday afternoon interview with Te'o contained the former Notre Dame football star's first extended comments on the shocking hoax -- earlier in the day posted audio from three voicemails "Kekua" left for Te'o.
In the first, Kekua updates him on her fictional first day of chemotherapy treatment for leukemia. In the second, she expresses insecurity that Te'o might be seeing someone else behind her nonexistent back. In the third, she tells Te'o she loves him. Clips from all three voicemails are included in this compilation:
Te'o and Kekua's romance was the feel-good sports story of the fall, and covered by a wide range of major media outlets. They had allegedly, according to Te'o's dad, met in person after a game at Stanford then struck up a romance online. Kekua was said to have died in September after a horrible car accident and battle with leukemia, but Te'o nonetheless led Notre Dame within one win of a national title and finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Then a bombshell Deadspin report blew that narrative to smithereens last week. Te'o and Kekua had never met. She had never lived, or died, but was in fact part of an elaborate "catfishing" scam perpetrated by Tuiasosopo, an acquaintance of Te'o's. Photos associated with Kekua's fake social media accounts were allegedly stolen from another woman's social profiles without her knowledge.
The main question then became what Te'o's role was in it all. Was he just incredibly naive? Was he part of the hoax all along, looking to boost his media profile and Heisman candidacy? Was he gay, and this a coverup? Was he initially fooled by the scam, then an accomplice?
On Friday, Couric shared an interview teaser clip in which Te'o admitted that he actually learned of the deception in December but was too embarrassed to come clean at the time.
The full interview that aired Thursday afternoon was supposed to lend some clarity to the entire story, but it was widely panned among the sports Twitterati and further extended the entire story's farcical nature. Te'o's apparent naivete was widely roasted and the most awkwardly viral moment came when Couric asked pointedly whether he is gay.
"No," Te'o answered. "Far from it. Faaaaar from it."
The New York Times had a good running commentary on its live blog of the interview. You can check that out here.
Do you still think it's possible Te'o was in on the hoax, or is he simply a naive victim? Give us your take in the comments.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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