The Manti Te'o hoax is one of the most bizarre stories the sporting world has seen in years, and it has become one of the biggest national stories over the past week.
To refresh, Te'o has maintained he believed he was in a long-term relationship with a young woman named Lennay Kekua. He once claimed he had met her, but he has since acknowledged that he never did. He believed she had died, only to find out later she was never even real.
Since Deadspin broke this story, the questions have been numerous. Was Te'o in on the hoax? If he was, what were his motivations for perpetuating this lie? If he was the victim of the hoax, why would someone do this to him? Even if he was deceived, why would he lie and tell his father he had met Kekua?
In an interview with Katie Couric that aired on Thursday afternoon, Te'o attempted to answer those questions and provide details about the alleged hoax. Here are the major points from that interview.
Manti Te'o Is Denying Any Involvement in the Hoax
Couric immediately asked Te'o whether he had any involvement in the hoax, and he claimed he was a victim, not a perpetrator. He said he believed Lennay Kekua was somehow alive after he received a phone call on Dec. 6, not that she was a fictional creation of a` hoax.
From KSTP Breaking News:
Manti Te'o: I didn't have any involvement in creating the scam. The same day everyone else found out, I found out.— KSTP Breaking News (@KSTPbrk) January 24, 2013
Te'o said after the story broke that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called him and said he was behind the hoax and explained he was trying to "help people." Clearly, he has a bizarre concept of what it means to help people. Tuiasosopo had initially claimed he was Kekua's cousin, and Te'o would only talk to Tuiasosopo when he couldn't reach her.
Te'o said the biggest lie he was sorry for was telling his father he had met Kekua.
He said the feelings and sorrows he went through after believing Kekua died were real. He claimed some of his friends knew he hadn't actually met her and that he tried to meet her on several occasions but it "never worked out."
When he lied to his father about meeting Kekua, he was supposed to be meeting her in Hawaii. She said one of her brothers had taken the car and she couldn't meet him, but he told his father they had met anyway.
Bleacher Report's Dan Levy notes an important hole in Couric's interview at this point:
I don't get why Couric didn't follow up with his parents on all the holes in the story he gave about Lennay's trip to Hawaii.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) January 24, 2013
Couric did well to pounce on Te'o about why he never visited Kekua in the hospital after her "car accident" and "coma." Te'o gave a muddled answer about not having enough time due to plane layovers. That led to the following exchange, via BuzzFeed Sports:
RT @buzzfeedandrew: Couric to Manti: "That doesn't make sense." Manti: "It doesn't make sense to me either."— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) January 24, 2013
As for the folks who want to see Te'o's phone records to verify that all of these exchanges between Te'o and "Kekua" took place, Couric said they looked at Te'o's phone bill and there was a large number of calls that lasted for several hours.
When Te'o got the call on Dec. 6, he thought Kekua's "sister" had called him, but the person claimed it was Lennay and made up a story about her family being on the run from drug dealers. At this point, Te'o knew something was wrong but publicly maintained that Kekua had died from Leukemia.
He gave the following reason for doing so, via Will Brinson of CBS:
"Part of me was saying if you say she's alive, what would everybody think? As a 21YRO I wasn't ready for that" - Manti Te'o— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) January 24, 2013
Te'o Had His Suspicions
He said the relationship didn't actually last four years, that he had only known of her and developed a friendship over that time. He said the relationship took the next step his junior year.
He claims he reached out to several people to see if she was real, and they all verified her existence. Couric also showed a Facebook exchange with one of his friends, where Te'o asked if Kekua might not be a real person. His friend reassured him that she in fact was real.
From BuzzFeed Sports:
Manti Te'o: Facebook private eye. twitter.com/BuzzFeedSports…— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) January 24, 2013
He said they communicated on Facetime several times, but all he would see is a block box. When he asked why, she would say she could see him and there were issues with her computer's camera. He didn't question her further and accepted her explanation.
Couric Asked If He Was Gay, As Has Been Speculated
"Far from it," Te'o laughed. "Farrrrr from it."
He Revealed Several Voicemails He Received From "Lennay Kekua"
Te'o said he always thought he was talking to a woman, but noted that if Tuiasosopo was in fact creating the voice, it took some serious talent to do so.
You be the judge (via Bleacher Report):
Here are voicemails left on Manti Te'o's phone from "Lennay Kekua." They sound a lot like a female voice. youtu.be/7NqFi252zlo— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 24, 2013
That definitely sounds like a woman. The next step is for Tuiasosopo to perform this voice for people to hear to quell any speculation that this story is false.
Tuiasosopo is expected to speak publicly on this matter at some point.