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Voice of Te’o prankster? Couric plays voicemails

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:18 p.m. HST, Jan 24, 2013


NEW YORK » The person Manti Te’o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker “I love you” in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.

Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te’o claims were left for him last year. Te’o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.

After the first message was played, Te’o said: “It sounds like a girl, doesn’t it?” 

“It does,” Couric responded.

The interview was the All-American’s first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16. 

Te’o’s parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn’t involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua. 

Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te’o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he were gay, Te’o said “no” with a laugh. “Far from it. Faaaar from that.”

He also said he was “scared” and “didn’t know what to do” after receiving a call on Dec. 6 — two days before the Heisman Trophy presentation — from a person who claimed to be his “dead” girlfriend.

The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua’s first day of chemotherapy for leukemia.

“Hi, I am just letting you know I got here and I’m getting ready for my first session and, um, just want to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye,” the person said.

In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te’o’s phone.

The third voicemail was left on Sept. 11, Te’o says, the day he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she “died.”

“Hey babe, I’m just calling to say goodnight,” the person on the voicemail said. “I love you. I know that you’re probably doing homework or you’re with the boys. ... But I just wanted to say I love you and goodnight and I’ll be ok tonight. I’ll do my best.  Um, yeah, so get your rest and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams.”

Couric suggested he person who left those messages might have been Ronaiah Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California, who Te’o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax.

“Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?” she asked.

“Well, it didn’t sound like a man,” Te’o said. “It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that’s incredible. That’s an incredible talent to do that.  Especially every single day.”

Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke. The Associated Press has learned that a home in California where Te’o sent flowers to the Kekua family was once a residence of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and has been in his family for decades. 

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ON THE WEB






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jussayin wrote:
Didn't know that Manti hired Matthew Hiltzik; a "high-powered publicist and crisis management expert". Funny, he represented Katie Couric [as well as other celebs such as Alec Baldwin, Justin Bieber, Ivanka Trump, etc]. Manti must have some bucks to pay for this guy.
on January 24,2013 | 10:54AM
allie wrote:
Manti is playing this sorry story for all it will get him. What he fails to see is that it discredits him, Punahou and Notre dame, not to mention his family. Let it alone, stay humble and quiet and hope to cash in for an NFL career.
on January 24,2013 | 12:33PM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Euphrosyne, you just contradicted yourself regarding "keep quiet". Didn't you originally ask the question, "why didn't he come out to begin with". Only discredit is you to our human race.
on January 24,2013 | 12:46PM
fishwrider wrote:
allie contradicting himself and lying to boot....example # 136
on January 24,2013 | 12:50PM
kalai wrote:
I agree!
on January 24,2013 | 01:57PM
fishwrider wrote:
I must say the more I listen to the tape, the more it sounds like a guy trying to imitate a girl's voice. allie, was that you?
on January 24,2013 | 12:49PM
waverider808 wrote:
good one cuz....
on January 24,2013 | 03:23PM
joewilly wrote:
He is a sure bet to make some kind of money in the NFL, so maybe it's based on when he gets paid? I don't know but you make a good point. These guys don't work for free.
on January 24,2013 | 03:50PM
twitter6 wrote:
Give Ronaiah a free trip to Hawaii and drop him off on the north shore and let him get some Aloha from Manti's friends. Diane O'Maera seems credible and validates Manti's story. While Manti maybe naive and sheltered it is apparent in the Katie Couric interview that he has a strong family core and respectful to his parents. Combination of his religion and the local culture. People on Catfish get duped for years so Manti's story is not unusual. Wish him well and hope the bashing comes to an end soon. He is a very talented player for sure.
on January 24,2013 | 07:24PM
Nalukai wrote:
Te'o stop already !! Enough ! You making me cry !!!!!
on January 24,2013 | 11:13AM
hsk wrote:
Now if Manti can make being gay work in an NFL locker room, he will accomplish more than anything he could do on the field.
on January 24,2013 | 11:15AM
hanoz808 wrote:
thats what i think is the issue
on January 24,2013 | 11:38AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
The NFL homosexual angle already came out.
on January 24,2013 | 12:27PM
8082062424 wrote:
I do not no if manti is gay. but Tuiasosopo sure is. by his lawyers own comments "This wasn't a prank to make fun," Grimes told the paper. "It was establishing a communication with someone. ... It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship." Read more: http://www.kitv.com/sports/Voice-of-Te-o-girlfriend-was-man/-/8905442/18262736/-/amrmrs/-/index.html#ixzz2Iwc40946
on January 24,2013 | 01:56PM
CriticalReader wrote:
Happy now, Ferd? All the Te'os cried on National TV. Great journalistic moment, huh? Pulitzers for everyone!
on January 24,2013 | 12:56PM
roughrider wrote:
Not being critical, just curious: What''s Ferd got to do with what happened today?
on January 24,2013 | 03:38PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Although I did not see the show, I am not impressed with what Manti Te'o is stated as saying. Instead of coming right out and saying, "I am sorry, I lied," he seems to say instead, "I kind of lied but what would you do in that situation?" I am sorry, Manti, I would not have lied about it in order to try and gain sympathy votes for the Heisman Trophy. Now some posters have stated that it really doesn't matter but it does to me. I believe in honesty and integrity. Given the number of posts from readers that say that it does not matter to them that he lied is disturbing to me. It is not about me being better than Mr. Te'o, it is about Te'o being a role model to our youth. I am sorry but when you are such a well known athlete you become a role model for our young ahtletes and non-athletes. What happened to honesty and integrity? Am I being old-fashioned and out of date? I would hope that honesty and integrity means something to people. Nothing something that is optional especially for someone that is affiliated with a religious institution such as Notre Dame. Wait, Notre Dame is known for some recent scandals. People like Mr. Te'o are held up to higher standards not only for their status but for their pronouncement of relgious beliefs. It is also distrubing that his father would say that he is just a kid. I'm sorry but he is not a kid anymore. It is apparent to me that his father is not quite all there himself. That would explain Mr. Te'o's behavior. Mr. Te'o, it would serve you better if you just came out and told the truth rather than half truths. You cannot cover up all the statements that you have made in the past. My suggestion to you, young man, is to fess up to your mistake and move on. Until you do so, it will haunt you for the rest of your life.
on January 24,2013 | 01:14PM
walaau808 wrote:
Unless you've never lied in your life...EVER...then you are not qualified to talk about this subject with any objectivity. We are ALL supposed to be examples to our youth - not only those with exposure. Do you do everything in the right way? Do your actions affect those around you including your own children or someone else's? You're coming across all high and mighty, yet I'm sure you have done things you're not proud of and would like a mulligan for. Spare us your self righteous diatribe, and worry about your own actions for a change. It's good that kids see that nobody is perfect so that they can decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong. We've all got choices to make - I choose not to castrate someone for being human. You should try it some time - it's very liberating. Since you aren't able to change what's happened, spend your time being the best person YOU can be.
on January 24,2013 | 01:33PM
kennie1933 wrote:
I'm with you but unfortunately, nowadays, honesty and integrity are in short supply. My guess is that Te'o is going to get a nice NFL contract regardless. That's just the way it goes in society today. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. Just reality. My personal role models are everyday people: police officers, firefighters/EMT's, the cashier at the supermarket during the holiday season (and working even ON the holiday).... I don't really respect pro athletes all that much. A guy gets paid millions of dollars to catch a football or throw a ball into a hoop? In the meantime, a guy who runs into a burning building to save another person doesn't even clear six figures.
on January 24,2013 | 01:50PM
maunawili1 wrote:
In the words of our Secretary of State........ WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Let it go, people, let it go!!!!!!
on January 24,2013 | 01:33PM
inverse wrote:
Yelling those words ended any chance of H Clinton ever becoming President of the US. No wonder Biden is chomping at the bits to run for Pres of the US in 2016. For one it makes a difference to the families of the four MURDERED Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya Chris topher Stevens. When murder is involved people will NOT let it go and rightly so. All evidence points to the fact that the four American deaths could have been avoided if they did not ignore Stevens dire requests for US military reinforcement at their location BEFORE it was too late. Tulsi Gabbard has a far superior chance of becoming the first female President of the US than Hillary Clinton, Susan or Condi Rice who are all now damaged in the eyes of the public.
on January 24,2013 | 02:59PM
Beaglebagels wrote:
7 embassies attacked and many people killed while Bush was in office.
on January 24,2013 | 09:57PM
st1d wrote:
manti must be worried about the recorded conversations ronaiah has. nothing worse than a jealous crying game sociopath.
on January 24,2013 | 02:28PM
inverse wrote:
Learned a new word from the internet Fa'afafine
on January 24,2013 | 02:47PM
mkk wrote:
I believe that Manti is the victim here. I didn't at first, but now with everything that's come out I believe him. He seems like a trustworthy guy. And that voice sure does sound like a woman's voice. I watched a couple episodes of the catfish show and saw some of the comments by Nev the shows creator on this whole fiasco. He himself was vicitmized in a very similiar way - interestingly he himself is educated, comes from an upper middle class family - if it could happen to someone like him this could possibly happen to anyone. I think people can learn great life lessons from this whole ordeal. I wish braddah Manti and his ohana the best and hope he'll do well in the NFL draft. Tuiasosopo, in the way he concocted this whole scheme, I mean calling and convincing the girl whose photo he stole to send him another photo of herself to "help his ill cousin" but really to keep Manti convinced should go to jail.
on January 24,2013 | 02:53PM
niimi wrote:
Ronaiah sounds like a girl's name. Maybe Ronaiah is dakine?
on January 24,2013 | 03:05PM
Oahuan wrote:
I still think Manti is gay. He'll come out as soon as his NFL playing days are over.
on January 24,2013 | 04:26PM
BobfromKailua wrote:
I 'm still trying to get a handle on why people don't believe Te'o? It strikes me that we have a very naive young man who was gullible enough to get comfortable talking with someone that he had never met and it eventually turned into what he thought was a real relationship. This is the ultimate role reversal of the romantic novel--name me a girl who hasn't read a similar story about someone falling in love with a man via love letters without ever meeting him. Apparently that fantasy is believable, but this one isn't? Every piece of evidence backs up Teo's claim, so why are some people so intent on making him out to be a liar, a manipulator, a con artist, or other devious descriptions? Why are stories written with headlines "Te'o admits to lying to parents?", "Te'o denies he was involved in hoax". Why the negative spin? Yep, its a very weird story, but I don't get the outrage from some members of the press or the cynics. Let's face it, Te'o is embarrassed, has said so over and over, and will now have to face down 320 pound lineman who will tease him mercilessly until he can re-establish his manhood on the football field. For his sake, the football season can't begin too soon. For the sake of the doubters, cynics, and deadspinners, get over yourself.
on January 24,2013 | 05:04PM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Thank you Bob, my sentiments exactly.
on January 24,2013 | 06:06PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
The HSA told it to us in their Big Q. 42% said it was a non-issue. 29% said they were sorry for Manti (I was one of those, although my comments go to both extremes). 29% said they thought Manti was fooling us. So no consensus. Death and Taxes are the only certainties, u know like 100% certain. Two plus two equals four in the first grade. In Hawaii, two plus two equals (2 2) x 1.047 = 4.19 not simply 4 because we all contribute to society so we can drive on the roads, so we can contribute to the education of our Keiki, and until 2022, so that the 0.5% monster will emerge from Kapolei, if u know what I mean ??!!
on January 24,2013 | 07:24PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Supposed to have a plus sign between the 2 and 2. I wonder what happened?
on January 24,2013 | 07:25PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Here let me try: 2 2
on January 24,2013 | 07:26PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Once more: 2 ' ' 2
on January 24,2013 | 07:27PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Now i know, i think one of those forbidden symbols that Windows does not allow in their names could not be typed. Ok.
on January 24,2013 | 07:28PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
320 lbs lineman, hell he gotta face his 350 lbs. Dad.
on January 24,2013 | 09:50PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Has Manti's dad always been that big? Omg, he looks like at least 350 pounds.
on January 24,2013 | 07:03PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
What were those campaign slogans during the messages to children about drugs in the 1980s? Just say no. I got into a bind myself in the past few days and i have completely disappeared from the people that were affecting me. I just dropped off completely from the face of this earth. Just say no. Then i will reappear three months later, just like that Coast Guard guy. Then we will see how truly those people cared about me or not. With lies, half-truths, or complete truths? We all hide stuff. It is called privacy. Manti, now u know. Next time no say nothing. Not even to Notre Dame. Your parents okay. Not to the public.
on January 24,2013 | 07:13PM
roxy1843 wrote:
It's all about aloha. All you haters out there don't have any clue what aloha means.
on January 24,2013 | 09:51PM
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