Manti Te’o admits lying, but claims he wasn’t in on it all along

Just when the media storm on the news of Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake dead girlfriend has died down, he’s done a sit-down interview. But wait – there’s more! Manti’s interview with Katie Couric airs today, and multiple outlets have advance details for us. I’m sure we’ll hear more about it once it finally airs, but fingers crossed that the major points have already been released to the press.

If you’re unfamiliar with this story, you can go here and here for a recap. At this point I’ll assume everyone has the basic details.

Previously, Manti told ESPN (in an interview which was not video recorded), that he was the victim of an elaborate internet hoax. He gave a timeline of the deception which was consistent with Notre Dame’s press statements, and with details I found convincing. I thought it was possible that Manti lied about some aspects of his relationship with this phantom online woman, but that he wasn’t in on the hoax from the get-go. In his Katie Couric interview, Manti attempts to explain why he continued to talk about his girlfriend’s death to the press even when he knew, by his own timeline, that he had been duped. He said basically that he answered questions in the only way he knew how, by clinging to the reality he once knew. Manti’s parents also joined him for parts of the interview.

Also, outlets have found solid evidence to support Manti’s claim that he was duped. Here’s more, from various sources:

On why he continued to lie about the woman after he knew he was duped
Pressed by Couric to admit that he was in on the deception, Te’o said he was convinced the woman he knew as Lennay Kekua died in September. Te’o claims he never met Kekua in person but developed a relationship with her through phone calls and electronic messages.

“Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12.”

“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?”

Te’o made at least three references to his girlfriend in news media interviews after Dec. 6. – From NY Times

NY Daily News finds receipt for flowers Manti sent when Kekua “died”
Wednesday, the New York Daily News published a story saying it obtained a receipt of flowers Te’o sent Sept.12, the day he believed Kekua had died, from It listed “Kainoa Kekua” as the recipient of “36 stems of premium white roses” sent by Te’o with a South Bend, Ind., address.

The message, the newspaper reported, was: “My dearest Lennay, although our time together was brief, I feel like I’ve known you all of my life. Till we meet again. I love you, Manti.”

Phone records support Manti’s claims
Also Wednesday, ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap said he was given documents by a person close to Manti Te’o saying they were Te’o’s AT&T phone records from May 11 to Sept. 12 of last year, a span that covers the time Te’o said he believed Kekua to be in a hospital in Los Angeles while recovering from a car accident and being treated for cancer…

ESPN reported the phone records show Te’o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours from the same number in the 661 area code, which covers Lancaster, a part of Los Angeles County.

Woman whose identity was stolen for the hoax goes public
Diane O’Meara told NBC’s Today that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating a fake Kekua.

“I’ve never met Manti Te’o in my entire life. I’ve never spoke with him. I’ve never exchanged words with him,” O’Meara said Tuesday.

The 23-year-old marketing executive went to high school in California with Tuiasosopo, but she says they’re not close. Tuiasosopo called to apologize the day Deadspin broke the story, she said. – From USA Today

Manti “doesn’t know” whether his story bolstered his Heisman votes
“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” Te’o replied.

He was more certain, however, when Couric pressed him by pointing out that it had become “sort of a legend that you had endured this hardship and gone on to play your team and your school to victory… Did you feel like, wow, I’m getting a lot of attention for this?”

Te’o denied reveling in the attention.

“I think for me the only thing I basked in was that I had an impact on people, that people turned to me and for inspiration and I think that was the only thing I focused on. You know my story I felt was a guy who in times of hardship and in times of trial really held strong to his faith, held strong to his family and I felt that that was my story,” said Te’o, who is a Mormon. – From ABC News

I believe this guy was fooled. The phone records and receipt for the flowers helped convince me. Maybe this will be a lesson to people to be smarter about online relationships. Sometimes people are just lonely and want to believe. I’m still really curious about the woman who was talking to Te’o on the phone. I doubt she’ll ever go public. She must have had deep feelings for him if she would talk to him for hours on the phone every night. Was she some married middle aged lady? I’d love to know. Maybe that’s why this story hasn’t died out, it’s kind of fascinating.

Update: Supposedly Manti was talking to this Ronaiah guy, not an unnamed woman (I read in an earlier story that it was a female cousin of Ronaiah’s) and Ronaiah had disguised his voice to sound feminine. This story is INSANE.

Here’s a clip of Manti’s interview with Katie Couric.

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49 Responses to “Manti Te’o admits lying, but claims he wasn’t in on it all along”

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  1. Masque says:

    I still don’t believe him. I’ve known people who dreamed up elaborate schemes (usually to cover the fact that they are gay, but one person was simply a psycho) so I just don’t believe his story.

    Does anyone know to whom that phone number belongs?

    • DreamyK says:

      TMZ just posted a pic of him hugging the guy who most think was behind the “hoax”. If someone had set me up for national ridicule, I would not be hugging them. So, yeah. Dude was totally in on it and trying to boost his profile during his run for the Heisman.

      I’ll be glad when this jacka** isn’t reported on anymore. Tiresome.

      • Kim says:

        The video from Tmz was from November he found about hoax in December

      • Sassy says:

        People! Why is this getting press? It is a non story about a football player! He is being reported on every media outlet. Slow news week perhaps.

    • Lucinda says:

      He’s a liar. His friend did the same hoax on someone else with the same picture. When people heard about Manti’s story, they told him it was a hoax (long before December) via twitter and he blocked their account. It’s convenient that these “records” are showing up after the story broke but yet Deadspin couldn’t find any of this evidence when they did their very well-researched article. Most outlets are commending Deadspin’s investigative reporting. This “evidence” is too convenient.

      And he absolutely does know that this story helped his Heisman status. His stats were not good enough to get him the nomination. Not even close.

  2. judyjudy says:

    In a couple of months he’ll go on Oprah and admit he was lying the whole time.

  3. Ms Kay says:

    Boy what a messed up story…

  4. T.C. says:

    He is still lying. He benefitted from the sob story in the press so he kept it going even when he knew it was a lie.

  5. PoliteTeaSipper says:

    He could be gay, and afraid to come out. Mormonism does not look kindly upon gay leanings, and what better way to avoid his team members question of why he doesn’t have a girlfriend than by making one up? He probably thought no one would ever find out, and then their team skyrockets to the national championship and then, well…

    • Masque says:

      Yep. THAT story would be both believable ans earn my sympathy. The one he’s selling doesn’t give answers, it keeps begging questions

  6. annabelle says:

    This story tops my who gives a shit list.

  7. Kate says:

    ESPN was not given the actual phone records. They were given essentially an excel spreadsheet summarizing the supposed calls. Please. Everytime Te’o’s team tries to “fix” the situation, they make it worse.

    I believe this guy was duped originally because he is an idiot, but I also believe he never spent this much time on the phone with the person nor was she the love of his life. He embellished it 1000-fold because he is a fame whore and he loved the attention.

    Dude played this up for the press and he still won’t let it go. I really don’t understand the PR strategy here. He’s either a liar, a punchline or both. It seems as though they are desperately trying to gain back potential endorsement deals they’ve undoubtedly lost. It is never going to happen at this point. He’s not going to be able to endorse any product unless and until he has a few very very good years in the NFL and people forget about this garbage.

    • amanda says:

      But wouldn’t it be awesome if he started pimping out eharmony or one of the other dating sites? I can see it now ‘I met my wife on eharmony and this one’s real!’. Hehehe

  8. pamspam says:

    I feel like the media keeps pushing this story, trying to make it “happen,” but nobody actually seems to care about it too much…

  9. Chicagogurl17 says:

    I’m from the south bend area originally (parents still there). The whole community – Notre dame, the press, people in restaurants… Everyone is behind this kid. In the words of my uncle, “manti, he’s an excellent ball player. Not that sharp off the field maybe. Too trusting. He’s Mormon. Don’t they trust everyone. He’ll they don’t even kiss before marriage sometimes, so he didn’t meet her, who cares. I feel bad for the kid…and he’s Mormon.”

    • T.C. says:

      Using the Mormon card is always a good way to excuse some people. As though Mormons are so much different from any of us.

      • Chicagogurl17 says:

        Right on T.C.! I love the small mindedness while describing someone naive. Ode to irony. I personally think the kid got knee deep on all these lies before he started to realize what might be going on.

    • Samantha says:

      The entire community has also been behind accused rapists, so that’s not really saying that much.

  10. Tessa says:

    Please – in this day and age where FaceTime / Skype are so easily available? He never asked to see her? Or find it weird she didn’t want to?

  11. reinstorm says:

    Oh come on. He was in on it the whole time as a way to boost his chances at winning the Heisman, since he didn’t have the skills to put him ahead of the other players. This was a ploy to give him a Smoothe transition in to the NFL with a lucrative contract.

  12. littlestar says:

    There’s one thing NO ONE seems to be asking about – if Manti Te’o was supposedly talking to a woman on the telephone, who was this imposter woman??? I can’t imagine it would have been his friend who tricked him disguising his voice, so who would have played the part of the dying girlfriend???

  13. keats says:

    If this was a gay cover up, why did he need to kill off the phantom girlfriend? I kind of buy that he was initially duped, but he was probably in on it much earlier than he’ll admit. And also he used the situation to his benefit along with other people who are probably pulling the strings.

    It’s worth noting that I usually lean a little on the side of conspiracy theorist, so read with many many grains of salt!

    • Kim says:

      The guy said it was his voice on the VM leaving messages for Teo his lawyer released statement.Watch Katie they play voice mail,he sounds like a girl.

    • KellyinSeattle says:

      He’s worse than a kid w/ a vivid imagination who makes up stories

  14. Auruor says:

    I dunno. I was CONVINCED he was in on it in the beginning, but now I believe that he wasn’t. I do think it was messed up that he lied about meeting her, but I can see why he’d do that too — to legitimize the relationship and play up the story line. The only thing I don’t believe is that he had no idea this would help his Heisman campaign.

    I dated a guy in high school once who was very much like him, which is what pushed me over the edge into accepting that he was hoaxed — this guy was Mormon, Samoan, a football player. He was handsome and nice. But DUMB AS A ROCK. I mean really, REALLY dumb. I dumped him because he was boring.

    So really, I mean, it’s easy for you or I to think “Well hell, I wouldn’t fall for that!” No, you wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t, but Manti Te’o is not the brightest bulb in America’s intellectual chandelier. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

    The bigger issue, to me, is this: there are football players who have unquestionably done TERRIBLE things. Ray Lewis, in all likelihood, murdered a man in cold blood and got away with it. Ben Rothlesberger. (Can’t be bothered to look up how to spell his name.) And yet this kid — this young kid who is younger even than I am — is the one who is the center of a media firestorm and rampant condemnation, while football players who are much bigger assholes — murderers, rapists, etc — float along with little scrutiny, enjoying media coverage that doesn’t even mention their major transgressions.

    Get back to me when there’s a comparable media firestorm over Ray Lewis playing in the Super Bowl. THAT man is a piece of work.

    • ToodySezHey says:

      RE: auror

      please get your facts right. You wanna criticize ray lewis for domestic abuse? Ill ride with you on that all day.

      But ray lewis did *not* kill a man.
      He was out with he and some of his “posse” when two men in his group got in an altercation that resulted in a murder. the reason ray was involved was because he was a high profile nfl star who was at the scene.

      The cops never had him pegged as a suspect for the assault/murder. But they *did* go after him for obstruction of justice for not telling everything he knew, because he didnt want to rat on a friend. In exchange for testimony( and giving up his friends) he got a lesser deal in the plea bargain.

      So please, this is not OJ, he did NOT murder someone.

      • Auruor says:

        Wow. See? Yup. Anyone criticizing these other guys gets hammered, but Te’o is fair game.

        Lewis reached an out of court settlement with the family of the murdered guy and agreed to a plea agreement to testify against his friends in exchange for the murder charges being dropped against him. Here’s a good rundown:

        It is MUCH less cut-and-dried than you are suggesting.

        If I were completely uninvolved in a dude’s murder, you can be sure I wouldn’t reach TWO SEPARATE settlements for wrongful death with the guy’s family. I would fight it to the end.

        In any case, I find it interesting that his case didn’t ignite the level of coverage that Te’o’s did. Te’o’s story is being picked apart from all angles. Meanwhile, there are multiple other cases — like the Notre Dame rape accusation that resulted in a girl’s suicide (a REAL dead woman) — that go largely unreported.

        It’s pretty sad.

  15. Cait says:

    Here’s the problem for Te’o: he’s hoping to be drafted this spring. ANY NFL team who has interest in him will hire investigators to look into this first – we’re not talking half-assed Notre Dame PI’s, either. If it turns out he lied further about his involvement, it’ll be public by April. And the NFL interviews are brutal – they ask invasive, difficult questions to try to gauge your character.

    Note: this obviously does not include the Bengals, home of second chances. 🙂

  16. delia says:

    Still lying. He previously admitted that he lied to his parents about meeting her in Hawaii and, as far as I know, hasn’t retracted that. Also, show me the phone records where he called the hospitals for either his beloved’s “car crash” or “leukemia coma.” And not once in 4 whole years did he want to meet or even Skype the woman that he had “committed” himself to. Puleeze.

    Closeted gay Mormon, (who’ll never come out), who’s clearly not the brightest bulb in the box, and for whom the Notre Dame athletic dept. assisted in perpetuating a cover up and spinning of a big fake hero story.

    The only reason that I care about this is because super dumb meathead athletes like him get into good academic institutions on free athletic scholarships, have people to do their homework and take tests for them, get plenty of under the table cash and perks, usually leave in 3 years and deprive people who actually do deserve those academic spots from getting them. College athletic programs have become free minor league training camps esp. for the NFL and NBA and that’s a national disgrace.

  17. lucy2 says:

    I’m still not buying it. If I were duped like that, found out it was all a hoax, and was then asked about it a few days later by reporters, I would choose to not comment, rather than CONTINUE the lie!
    He knows he benefited from it – whether or not he was in on it from the start or just kept it going because of the attention, it’s just bizarre.

  18. Melissa says:

    Still not buying it. This guy has had a week since this story broke to prepare for his interview with Couric, and the ducks still aren’t all lined up in a row. My money’s on closeted gay guy, but he also could just be dumb as a box of rocks and his friend played a joke on him, but he knew about it for much longer than he’s letting on. Notre Dame was not expected to go undefeated (excepting the BCS Championship Game), so he wasn’t expecting all of this coverage. His little lie got away from him and blew up in his face.

  19. Kim says:

    His parents spoke to fake girlfriend multiple times,Katie has the phone records and heard voice mail.I think the guy Ronainh was enamored with him and created this girlfriend to get close to him.Teo is naive and not very bright.

    • ParisPucker says:

      interesting theory, that this ‘friend’ of this did this with these intentions. pretty twisted but viable. still all very ‘muholland drive’ though…

  20. Leigh says:

    WTH, according to this article, it was the man that set this all up – Ronaiah Tuiasosopo – speaking to Te’o on the phone in falsetto. This whole thing just sounds so preposterous!

  21. ParisPucker says:

    this whole thing is freakin’ weird and a bit pathetic. I mean, *how DUMB must you BE* to get involved in a fiasco like this when you’re becoming such a public figure!??!

    I marvel at people’s ability to be so stupid. It’s fascinating I guess because it’s just mind boggling how anyone who is in the media could knowingly be involved in something like this and expect a different outcome.

  22. Kim says:

    After watching Catfish the movie and Catfish the MTV show I believed he was duped from the beginning.I saw him on Katie today and he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  23. Emily says:

    I saw this in the doctor’s office. He was near-smirking or outright-smirking the whole time. He knew.

    • The Original Mia says:

      He’s smirking now because he thinks everyone believes his story.

      Why go to Katie? Why not let the ESPN interview be his statement on the matter? Just like the dying girlfriend story propelled him to all the awards & accolades, so does this story of the naive & duped Mormon.

  24. AtoZ says:

    I’m so tired of hearing about this. He is a 21 year old kid. Football is all he knows and has focused on for a very long time. He is probably emotionally stunted in a lot of the same ways as other athletes, actors and people VERY focused on school are. I hope every person giving him a hard time is prepared to come out and justify everything they did when they were in their early 20’s.
    I think everyone should just drop it.

  25. anon says:

    1 – Ray Lewis was acquitted, and chose to settle with the family both for his public image and because, I believe, he is a good person who could not live with himself otherwise. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has had 6 kids with 4 wives, but who cares? He’s a great father by all accounts. He is more active in the community and in national causes than anyone on record in the NFL, and they all agree, even if they don’t like him. I can’t wait to see him in the Super Bowl!

    2 – I had a solely internet/phone romantic relationship in my mid-twenties. This was before webcams so we relied solely on photos and telephone conversations for a couple of years. I absolutely believed he was who he said he was, and we both believed we were in love. Once webcams came into being, we talked (and did other things) that way. He lived out of state, and circumstances only ever allowed us to meet in person one time for a couple of hours.

    Point is, for the first couple of years he could have been lying to me and I’d have been none the wiser. If he was lying and it had gone public, I’d have been devastated and totally embarrassed.

    Manti is Mormon which means he cannot in good conscience engage in sexual activity before marriage. Maybe he felt like this was a “safer” relationship, sexually? He certainly sounds like a sweet and innocent person – far more innocent than most of his peers. To put it simply, I believe the kid.