Manti Te’o sat down with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap late last night to discuss what has become the biggest sports story in a long, long time. The interview took place off-camera and included the Heisman runner-up’s newfound attorney.
Oh, and it aired at 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Public relations, y’all.
He denied being a part of the elaborate hoax exposed by Deadspin on Thursday, but admitted to tailoring stories to leave the impression that he’d met her before her death.
“No. Never,” Te'o said during the 2½-hour interview. “I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this.”
Te'o said he didn't know for sure that “Lennay Kekua” never existed until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called Te'o and admitted he was behind the hoax.
Te'o said he received a Twitter direct message from Tuiasosopo where Tuiasosopo said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman. Te'o then talked to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday.
“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” Te'o said. Asked who they are, he said: “I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one.”
Te’o said he hasn’t read the original Deadspin story or any other subsequent reporting on the hoax.
Some other nuggets:
• He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that Te'o and Kekua had met. Several media stories indicated that Te'o and Kekua had met. Te'o insisted they never did.
• He tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a “black box” and wasn't seen.
• He planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.
• The first time he met Tuiasosopo was in Los Angeles. Notre Dame beat USC there on Nov. 24.
• A group of people connected to Tuiasosopo showed up at the team hotel, after curfew, 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 hotel lobby. Someone in the group called Te'o, saying they were waiting for Kekua to join them in the lobby and asking if she was with him. Te'o then hung up. Te'o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.
• Te'o was never asked for money during the plot, but Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money. Te'o did not provide his account number.
Schaap asked about the motivation behind his deception.
“That goes back to what I did with my dad,” Te'o said. “I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn't meet her, as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude.”
Not sure that strategy paid off.
So now what? What conclusions do you draw from all of this?
[Full Story on ESPN]