LANCASTER, Calif. >> The person cast as the mastermind of the hoax involving Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o may tell his side of the story, a family member said today.
Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, uncle of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, says the family plans to hold a meeting this week to determine when and how his nephew would talk about the bizarre prank.
“We want to do it right,” he said, also noting that the family has hired an attorney. He never directly mentioned the hoax or his nephew being involved.
Te’o insisted he had no role in the hoax involving his “dead” girlfriend and told ESPN on Friday night that he was duped by a person who has since apologized to him.
In an off-camera interview, Te’o identified that person as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California. He said the young man contacted him soon after Deadpsin.com broke the news on Wednesday. The Deadspin story indicated Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was involved, and suggested Te’o was, too.
“We’re just a family of faith. The family is holding up well,” Peter Navy Tuiasosopo said. “They’re holding up the way I would expect a family to. This is a storm.”
He made the comments after attending a two-hour service at the Oasis Christian Church, where his brother, who is Ronaiah’s father, is pastor.
Titus Tuiasosopo, the father, choked up as he thanked people for their prayers.
“I’ve been practicing how to say ‘no comment’ in 20 languages,” the pastor told his congregation. The family has not commented publicly since news of the hoax broke.
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo wasn’t seen in attendance, and two church members said he was not there.
Earlier in the day, ABC news announced that Te’o would do his first television interview with Katie Couric. The interview will air Thursday on Couric’s daytime talk show and Te’o’s parents will be with him. ABC was not releasing details of when the interview would take place or where.
Also, in a story published in Sunday’s South Bend Tribune, a Notre Dame spokesman said the university decided against disclosing the hoax before the Irish played Alabama in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7 because it wasn’t in the best interest of the teams.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said some school administrators thought they should release what they knew about the hoax when they became aware of it. Te’o went to coaches and school officials with his story on Dec. 26. The school commissioned an investigation that it says confirmed Te’o was not involved. Investigators gave their findings to the school on Jan. 4.
The university officials said the investigators did not examine cellphone records, emails or other electronic communication to determine the length or extent of Te’o’s communication over the past few years with the person claiming to be Lennay Kekua, nor did the university ask Te’o to take a lie detector test.
The school informed Te’o’s parents about the investigation results on Jan. 5.