Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 23, 2013
While the jury may still be out on whether Notre Dame football player (and Heisman Trophy finalist) Manti Te’o was a perpetrator or a victim of an elaborate hoax surrounding the existence and subsequent death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, Te’o is complicit in one aspect of the story: lying to the American public about her existence for more than a month after finding out that she wasn’t real.
Te’o confirmed that he had duped the entire world, including his own family, to Katie Couric this week. Clips of the interview were aired on ABC’s Good Morning America today, while the full interview will air on Couric’s new syndicated talk show tomorrow morning.
“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,” Te’o told Couric.
“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 continued.
Couric also interviewed Te’o’s parents, Brian and Ottilia, who said that their son hadn’t been completely honest to them about certain details with his relationship to Kekua.
“People can speculate about what they think he is. I’ve known him 21 years of his life. And he’s not a liar. He’s a kid,” Brian Te’o told Couric.
The story of Kekua’s death – combined with the real death of Te’o’s grandmother – within hours of one another helped catapult the senior standout to national fame as he led the Fightin’ Irish to an undefeated record and the BCS Championship this fall. Kekua supposedly died of leukemia, which she only found out about after suffering a serious car accident in April.
Notre Dame lost, 42-14, to Alabama on January 7, and Te’o is currently at the NFL combine training for April’s draft.
According to the website Deadspin, which first broke the story on January 16, Te’o received a call from Kekua on December 6, just days before the Heisman Trophy winner was announced in New York City. In his interview with Couric, Te’o confessed that he was lying to the media during the presentation ceremony and in interviews leading up to the BCS Championship. When the Deadspin story broke Notre Dame released a statement admitting that they were informed by Te’o and his family about the hoax on December 26 and were still investigating the details behind it, according to university spokesman Dennis Brown.
The mastermind behind the hoax has been identified as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, an acquaintance of Te’o’s. Yesterday, Diane O’Meara, the ‘face’ behind Kekua, told NBC’s The TODAY Show that she was unaware that pictures of her were being used by Tuiasosopo to perpetuate the myth of Kekua’s existence until recently.