New questions follow Couric's interview with Manti Te'o
Did Manti Te’o help orchestrate the hoax that catapulted him to fame?
The Notre Dame linebacker, who claims to have been tricked into a relationship with a fictional girlfriend, spoke with Katie Couric Thursday in his first televised interview on the unfolding scandal. But his answers revealed details that cast new doubt on his story.
During the interview, Te’o related his last interactions with Lennay Kekua, the fictional woman who was his "girlfriend." On September 12, Te’o received word that Kekua had died after a prolonged struggle with leukemia. Yet according to Te’o, another call from Kekua on December 6 revealed her miraculously alive.
“C’mon,” Couric said. “You knew something was amiss.”
“You’re right,” Te’o responded, adding, “My whole world told me that she died on September 12. Now I get a phone call on Dec 6 that she’s alive. What would you do?”
But Te’o’s calls from Kekua were fabricated, as well. All Lennay Kekua’s phone conversations and voicemails were voiced by a man, Ronaniah Tuiasasopo. Tuiasasopo, a singer, faked a woman’s voice, apparently leading Te’o to believe that Lennay Kekua was a real person. Te’o released several voicemails (see below) in Tuiasasopo impersonates the fictional Kekua.
Te’o denied knowing Tuiasosopo, except through Kekua. However, according to a source in the original Deadspin article that exposed the hoax, “there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te'o together on Tuiasosopo's now-deleted Instagram account.”
Something remains fishy, and Couric suspected it, too. "Didn't you have something to gain, Manti, by keeping this story alive?" she asked.
When Te’o first announced Kekua’s death last year, he was being considered for the Heisman Trophy. The death of his girlfriend made Te’o more than a talented athlete; his alleged emotional struggle made him a sympathetic figure. Many suspect that the entire hoax was engineered to increase Te’o’s chances of winning the Heisman.
Te’o claims his only hope was to motivate others. “Inspiration... was the only thing I focused on. My story was a guy in times of trial who held strong to his faith."
Still, many remain skeptical, Couric among them. "Either you're the most naive person on the planet, or this is the saddest story ever written," she told Te’o.