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Te'o denies being part of dead girlfriend hoax

By Associated Press & Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 08:50 p.m. HST, Jan 18, 2013

Manti Te'o told ESPN tonight that he was never a willing participant in the hoax involving an online relationship with a person whom he considered his girlfriend.

"No. Never," Te'o said in an interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap.

"I wasn't faking it," he said. "I wasn't part of this."

Te'o said he did not make anything up to help his Heisman trophy candidacy.

"When (people) hear the facts, they'll know," he told ESPN. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."

Te'o told Schaap that he first met the woman he thought was Lennay Kekua on Facebook.

He said the relationship began to get serious when he thought she had been in a car accident.

Shortly afterwards, they began talking on the phone daily from about April 28 until Sept. 12, when he thought she had died.

Te'o told Schaap he didn't really believe Kekua didn't exist until Ronaiah Tuiasasopo apologized and admitted he was behind the hoax two days ago.

Te'o said he received a direct message from Tuiasosopo on Twitter where Tuiasosopo said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman.

"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o told ESPN. Asked who they are, he said: "I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."

Te'o admitted misleading people, including his father, about the relationship because he knew how it would sound if it was known that he had never actually met Kekua in person.

"I knew that -- I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," he said. "And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well."

ESPN reported that Te'o said a group of people, including a woman claiming to be Kekua, showed up at the team hotel for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te'o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the lobby of the hotel. Te'o told Schaap it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.

Schaap asked Te'o was what he thought should happen to Tuiasosopo.

"I hope he learns," Te'o said in an ESPN story posted online. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

He added: "I'll be OK. As long as my family's OK, I'll be fine."

The comments were Te'o's first public remarks since deadspin.com reported that his girlfriend not only didn't die but, in fact, never existed.

Earlier, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said during the taping of his weekly radio show that Te'o has to explain exactly how he was duped into an online relationship with a fictitious woman whose "death" was then faked by perpetrators of the scheme.

Skeptics have questioned the versions of events laid out by Te'o and Notre Dame, wondering why Te'o never said his relationship was with someone online and why he waited almost three weeks to tell the school about being duped.

According to Notre Dame, Te'o received a call on Dec. 6 from the girl he had only been in contact with by telephone and online, and who he thought had died in September. After telling his family what happened while he was home in Hawaii for Christmas, he informed Notre Dame coaches on Dec. 26.

Notre Dame said it hired investigators to look into Te'o's claims and their findings showed he was the victim of an elaborate hoax.

Te'o released a statement on Wednesday, soon after deadspin.com broke news of the scam with a lengthy story, saying he had been humiliated and hurt by the "sick joke." But he has laid low since.

 Te'o led a lightly regarded Fighting Irish team to a 12-0 regular season and the BCS title game.

Deadspin reported that friends and relatives of Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old who lives in California, believe he created Kekua. The website also reported Te'o and Tuiasosopo knew each other — which has led to questions about Te'o's involvement in the hoax.

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HonoluluHawaii wrote:
The BIG Question today asked about this incident: 42% says it was a non-incident to them, meaning that either they are not sports fans or that they support Manti completely. Of the remaining 58%, it is a virtual tie between those that think Manti got duped and those that feel sorry that Manti got duped. In other words, the whole story has not been reported enough to our satisfaction. Best to have kept this entire incident a complete secret, Manti, u know like how the Federal Government does not let us know about certain things?
on January 18,2013 | 05:39PM
OldDiver wrote:
Errrr, "Schaap said Te'o wasn't really convinced Kekua didn't exist until Tuiasasopo's apology two days ago." Sounds like we are are dealing with a dull knife.
on January 18,2013 | 07:29PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
on January 18,2013 | 07:34PM
OldDiver wrote:
The weird thing is Te'o himself told Notre Dame officials in late December he was the victim of a hoax in and that his GF never existed. So now the story is he still believed she existed until a day ago. This raises more questions than it answers.
on January 18,2013 | 07:45PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Hey i am 55. So how old are you?
on January 18,2013 | 07:51PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
From your previous posts it is clear that you are not from Hawaii. It is now apparent that you are a troll and should be deleted from the SA blog.
on January 18,2013 | 10:12PM
OldDiver wrote:
That's news to me. On January 5th Notre Dame told Manti their investigation showed Kekua was a hoax and didn't exist.
on January 18,2013 | 10:44PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Schaap is going to interview Siid Finch tomorrow to get his take on all this.
on January 18,2013 | 09:29PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Breaking News from ESPN at 6:44pm Hawaii Time: for the above interview, Manti tells ESPN's Jeremy Schaap that he was not involved in creating girlfriend hoax.
on January 18,2013 | 05:48PM
Masami wrote:
"ESPN officials posted a photo on Twitter late Friday night of reporter Jeremy Schapp with Te'o and his attorney." WHY the need for an attorney if you're telling the TRUTH?
on January 18,2013 | 06:35PM
omd111 wrote:
Exactly! Why do you need an attorney for an interview with a sportscaster? Manti needs to explain how he referenced his "dead girlfriend" twice after he said that he found out that he was duped.
on January 18,2013 | 06:42PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Masami, b/c of guys like you.
on January 18,2013 | 09:41PM
RichardCory wrote:
Oh, look, it's THIS story again.
on January 18,2013 | 07:07PM
Allenk wrote:
So far nothing new. If he knew she was non-existent, then why keep on commenting about it after he learned of the fact. Despite his youth he is legally an adult and should know that there are consequences for his actions.
on January 18,2013 | 07:14PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Lucky i was a nobody. It prevented me from getting all this kind of press coverage. I am obviously leaving out details of my experiences.
on January 18,2013 | 07:26PM
MakaniKai wrote:
Believe or no believe; this story speaks sadly of our current culture. Manti is a gifted athlete that IMHO did not need to “pump up” his Heisman trophy candidacy. I prefer to rally around the local boy and let it be…life is short and we live in a very fluid world. Best wishes little brother, stay strong and god speed. Aloha.
on January 18,2013 | 07:47PM
jimbone wrote:
Raja that, Stay strong Manti.. Clowns will speculate, Because they will never be at your level in there LIFETIME EVER. God first , than famly.. These clowns behind the computer screen i wouldʻnt worry about. Support you all the way bro, Next step NFL.. cheehuu
on January 18,2013 | 08:17PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Yes we will rally around u Manti. Most of the hype surrounding this incident is media driven. So as i have stated twice before: better to have kept EVERYTHING a secret, Manti. Not mention anything at all, not even to Notre Dame. As a 55 year old, i have been around the blocks a few times.
on January 18,2013 | 08:20PM
hawaii_io wrote:
Bruddah is still in denial! What a joke. Brah, you knew she was fake, so why did you make it sound like she really existed? Now Tuiasosopo comes out to take the blame, and you still try to make it sound like it was all on them! You still kept the "Hoax" alive, and perpetuated the lie by playing along! We all know already, that these three clowns concocted this stupid hoax, but what we don't know is why you and your Ohana are on record of saying, at various times, that there was physical interaction with this "Make Believe" girlfriend that we all have been led to know as Lennay Kekua? Screw the hoax, its the lies that make this whole episode unbelievable. Sorry bruddah, but you ain't off the hook yet!
on January 18,2013 | 08:11PM
ichiban wrote:
Question--Out of all this 3-ring circus created by the media, did Manti commit any crime? If he did what are the charges? And who has the most to lose? I say No, can't think of any charges, and Manti has the most to lose. Because Manti has the most to lose I don't believe he would involve himself in this hoax. If he did help perpetrate this hoax, he's not playing with a full deck.
on January 18,2013 | 08:35PM
jussayin wrote:
If Teo was involved, one could say that he used the death of his girlfriend to gain more recognition and also to gain an edge for the heisman. I just saw ESPN and it's hard to tell if it was a well crafted story or the truth. There's no video of the interview. My guess: this story will fade as the Super Bowl approaches. Hurray.
on January 18,2013 | 08:46PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Maybe we need to shut down the gossip sections of the news media. Unfortunately the three rules of media are death, taxes and love.
on January 18,2013 | 09:07PM
IAmSane wrote:
He loses nothing from this, which weeks from now hardly anyone will remember or care. He's a gifted athlete and he will become a millionaire regardless of what the truth behind this story is, and he will be wiping his tears off with hundred dollar bills.
on January 18,2013 | 09:17PM
false wrote:
What ever REALLY happened, Manti looks like a FOOL and that is sad. I mean a GROWN man with a College education ? hard to beleive this story.
on January 18,2013 | 09:10PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Yeah, if Manti believed THAT, he probably would have believed Iraq had WMD.
on January 18,2013 | 09:23PM
starripoff wrote:
Apparently you've never fallen for someone. Age, education has nothing to do with it. My brother-in-law is a civil engineer, graduated at the top of his class but is dumber than a door.
on January 18,2013 | 10:28PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Who cares? Ya'all need to move on with your lives. Continue to read and believe the hotsheets....MIB
on January 18,2013 | 10:15PM
pching wrote:
Teo and Tuiasasopo are/were friends. How can he say he doesn't know who he is? Why not just show the phone call logs of Teos phone? There should be calls to "her" number for hours through the night as he claims if not it clearly means he's part of the scam. And don't take days to procure fake phone records please... Just provide the actuals immediately. These should have been the first evidence provided by Teo to prove his innocence....instead we only got silence.
on January 18,2013 | 11:59PM
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