Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behind Manti Te'o's fake online girlfriend Lennay Kekua, is finally speaking out publicly. Tuiasosopo appeared on the Dr. Phil show to tell his side of the captivating hoax as part of a two-day interview that will air on Thursday and Friday.
In preparation for the segments being aired, Dr. Phil appeared on NBC's Today show on Wednesday and spoke about his impressions of Tuiasosopo. According to Today's official website, Dr. Phil told NBC's Mike Taibbi that he believes Tuiasosopo fell in love with the former Notre Dame star during their two-year online relationship:
Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love. I asked him straight up, ‘Was this a romantic relationship with you?’ And he says yes. I said, ‘Are you then therefore gay?’ And he said, ‘When you put it that way, yes.’ And then he caught himself and said, ‘I am confused.’
According to the report, Tuiasosopo later goes on to tell Dr. Phil that Te'o was not at all involved with the hoax, and that he was simply an innocent victim.
This interview comes on the heels of a Jan. 16 report from Deadspin, which first reported that Kekua, Te'o's purported girlfriend, did not exist.
It was later reported that Tuiasosopo used pictures of former high school classmate Diane O’Meara, who was not involved with the hoax, to create an online profile to develop a romantic relationship with Te'o.
According to Te'o's initial account of the hoax, the two first met via Facebook during his freshman season but did not engage in an official boyfriend-girlfriend relationship until 2012. The two would oftentimes engage in long phone conversations, where Tuiasosopo said he would portray Kekua's voice, and stayed together until Kekua's supposed death due to leukemia.
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Te'o would continue to play for the Irish despite Kekua's death, using her as motivation in leading Notre Dame to a BCS National Championship Game berth. However, Tuiasosopo's tangled web of lies eventually fell through on Dec. 6 when Te'o received a call from "Kekua" claiming she was alive, and then again when Deadspin's report broke.
The story has since taken on a life of its own, with rampant speculation about Te'o's involvement in the hoax at the forefront. Te'o appeared on Katie Couric's syndicated talk show last week and categorically denied being a part of the scam during his first televised interview since the news broke.
When Tuiasosopo's interview with Dr. Phil airs later this week, the public will hopefully have all they need to know regarding the unfortunate incident, and all parties involved can finally move on.