Two days after Deadspin reported that Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame All-American Manti Te'o who supposedly passed away last September, was a hoax, Te’o broke his silence to ESPN in a two and a half hour off-camera interview.
As one would imagine, Te’o denied playing any sort of role in the hoax. Here are highlights of what ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap has reported so far:
- Te’o says he never had any part in the hoax and never made anything up to help his Heisman candidacy.
- Te’o did, however, say he lied to his father about having met Kekua. Te’o confessed that he “kind of catered [his] stories” about Kekua to suggest that they had met.
- Te’o claimed “Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing.” When asked who they were, Te’o replied “I don’t know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
- Te’o says he was never asked for money, but Kekua once requested his checking account number to send him money. Te’o did not give her the number.
- Apparently confirming a CBSSports report released earlier Friday evening, Te’o said he tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and Facetime on several occasions, but that he only saw a “black box” on the other end.
- Te’o said that he began contact with Kekua on Facebook his freshman year. Things “got serious” on April 28, the day he was told she’d been in a car crash. The relationship is described by Te’o as being intermittent.
- When asked why he never visited Kekua in the hospital, Te’o replied “It never really crossed my mind. I don’t know. I was in school.”
- Te’o claims he and Kekua got in an argument when she called him after his grandmother passed away. “She was saying, ‘You know, I’m trying to be here for you.’ I didn’t want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself. Last thing she told me was ‘Just know I love you.’ “
- Te’o told ESPN that, until two days ago, he was not fully convinced Kekua didn’t exist. That’s when Te’o said he received an apology from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to be behind the hoax and Kekua’s cousin, according to Te’o. (A note: Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in Wednesday’s press conference that Te’o was the victim of a hoax and that the university handed the information over to a PI firm that returned a report on Jan. 4.)
- According to Te’o, a group of people related to Tuiasosopo showed up at Notre Dame’s team hotel for the BCS National championship game.
- The first time Te’o said he met Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Deadspin reported that Te’o and Tuiasosopo “definitely knew each other” but how was unclear.
There is also an interesting read from the USA Today which was published late Friday night. The paper reports that the cousin of Tuiasosopo faced many parallels in her life similar to Kekua, including a battle with leukemia.
Earlier today, “Outside the Lines” spoke with three people who believed Tuiasosopo was in fact orchestrating a hoax on Te’o, with one person claiming he confessed to the act to her in December. Later in the afternoon, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Kekua (or, a voice speaking as Kekua) told Te’o via telephone on Dec. 6 during the college football awards show that she had faked her death to hide from drug dealers.