Manti Te'o finally gave his side of the story. Through everything we've learned in the few days since we found out his girlfriend Lennay Kekua was fake, it's amazing that Te'o still hadn't spoken publicly about it beyond a quick press statement. Now, he's denying everything.
After some delays, Te'o denied having any part of the hoax, or ever meeting his girlfriend, during his first interview since the story broke with ESPN's Jeremy Schapp. The two spoke for over two hours off camera, with an attorney present, Friday evening. "I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this," Te'o told Schapp. The interview didn't air until late Friday evening or early Saturday morning, depending on your timezone, because ESPN had to finish a basketball double header.
According to Te'o, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo apologized for masterminding the whole hoax. Schapp was also shown Twitter direct messages from Tuiasosopo where he promises not to say anything to school investigators or reporters. The direct messages were from this account, @LennayKay, whose only tweet is a retweet of Te'o saying, "I miss you," from November.
So, now that Te'o's spoken out, what did we learn? These are Te'o's version of events, for now.
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Who Is Allegedly Behind It All?
According to Te'o, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and two other people perpetrated the whole thing: an unnamed man and an unnamed woman. It's unclear who they are at this time. Diane O'Meara, the woman whose photos were used to represent Kekua, does not appear to be in on it.
And Te'o Isn't In On It?
Nope. If true, this rules out any theories about Te'o's sexuality.
When Did Te'o Find Out She Was Fake? Why Did He Keep Talking About Her?
Te'o told Schapp he wasn't "fully convinced" she was dead, or real, or fake, until Deadspin published their report on Wednesday. (Curiously, he also said he hasn't read any media reports. Including Deadspin's story.) As Deadspin points out, this goes against a lot of what Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in the immediate wake of Deadspin's original report.
Te'o claims he received a call from someone on Dec. 6 who claimed to be Lennay Kekua. On that phone call, the person on the other end said she faked her death to hide from "drug people." This matches up with what the Honolulu Star-Adviser reported earlier Friday evening: that Kekau claimed to fake her death because she was evading drug dealers.
Also, on the night of the NCAA national championship in January, Te'o said he spoke with a group of people in the team's hotel lobby who claimed Kekua was supposed to meet up with them. Te'o hung up the phone.
What About All the Stories He Told About Meeting Her?
They were lies. Te'o said he lied to his dad about meeting her because he was afraid of people thinking he was "some crazy dude" for never meeting his girlfriend:
"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."
Seriously, Why Didn't He Ever Skype Her?
This might be one of the weirder answers Te'o offered. He said he tried to Skype with her multiple times, but she was in a "black box" and couldn't be seen. Most of their contact happened over the phone, according to Te'o. He said Kekua needed to be on the phone with him to fall asleep while in the hospital.
Why Didn't Te'o Go See Her in the Hospital? Why Didn't Te'o Go to the Funeral?
"It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school," Te'o told Schapp about the time Kekua was allegedly suffering from leukemia. As to why he never went to the funeral, Te'o was told by Kekua's alleged brother Noah he was not welcome. Kekua's family did not want Te'o to attend her funeral, despite their extended relationship and her dependancy on him during her alleged hospital stint.
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