The person Manti Te'o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker "I love you" in voice mails that were...
NEW YORK — The person Manti Te’o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker “I love you” in voice mails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.
Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hourlong talk show featured three voice mails that Te’o claims were left for him last year. Te’o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.
The lawyer for the man who has been identified as behind the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, told the New York Daily News that his client disguised his voice and assumed the identity of Kekua to try to develop a relationship with Te’o.
Milton Grimes said that Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with. It was Ronaiah as Lennay,” according to a report on ESPN.com.
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After the first message was played for Couric, Te’o said: “It sounds like a girl, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” Couric responded.
The interview was the All-American’s first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.
Te’o’s parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn’t involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua.
Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te’o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he were gay, Te’o said “no” with a laugh. “Far from it. Faaaar from that.”
He also said he was “scared” and “didn’t know what to do” after receiving a call Dec. 6 — two days before the Heisman Trophy presentation — from a person who claimed to be his “dead” girlfriend.
Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California who Te’o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax.
“Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?” she asked.
“Well, it didn’t sound like a man,” Te’o said. “It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that’s incredible. That’s an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day.”
Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke. The Associated Press has learned that a home in California where Te’o sent flowers to the Kekua family was once a residence of Tuiasosopo and has been in his family for decades.
Also on Thursday, the woman whose pictures were used in fake online accounts for Kekua said Tuiasosopo confessed to her in a 45-minute phone conversation as the scheme unraveled.
Diane O’Meara, 23, from Long Beach, Calif., said she knew Tuiasosopo from high school.