On Thursday, the first half of Dr. Phil's interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo—the man behind Lennay Kekua, the fictional woman Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o believed he was dating—aired around the country.
There was no shortage of questions for Dr. Phil to ask him. Why would he do this? Is Tuiasosopo in love with Te'o? Can he perform the voice live for America to hear? Why would he allow this hoax to go on for so long and spin so wildly out of control?
Certainly, there are some things we will never know about this hoax, and aspects of Tuiasosopo's mindset that will never make any sense at all to most of us. But on Thursday, questions were answered.
Here are the major takeaways:
Tuiasosopo Talks About Building the Character of Lennay Kekua
We'll start with a brief recap posted by Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of Deadspin, who received an advance screening of the Dr. Phil interview:
Among [Tuiasosopo's] statements today: Te'o and Lennay had broken up approximately two weeks before the day she died, Te'o was "Skyping and seeing" other girls during the course of their relationship, and Te'o, not Lennay, initiated their Facebook friendship. Tuiasosopo also confirmed Te'o's general account of things. As for Lennay's identity, he said that Manti "had no idea. Truthfully, honestly, he had no involvement. He did not know anything." He also repeated Te'o's detail that the pair hadn't met until the night before the Notre Dame-USC game in November 2012.
Tuiasosopo explained that he felt a lot of real feelings toward Te'o: When he called Manti, and a girl picked up, he got angry. The night Te'o's grandmother died, Te'o supposedly told Lennay that he never wanted to speak to her again—that's why Tuiasosopo killed her off that night.
To be clear, Tuiasosopo confirmed that Te'o had no involvement in this hoax.
Tuiasosopo apparently took this "relationship" quite seriously. From BuzzFeed Sports:
Tuiasosopo: "You hear people describe it as a 'cruel joke.' It was never intended as a joke."— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) January 31, 2013
While he never came right out and said he was in love with Te'o, he noted that he had true feelings for Te'o that eventually grew beyond his own control (via Paul Myerberg of USA Today):
"Truth of it is, that happened, I grew feelings, I grew emotions that sooner or later I couldn't control anymore. When I tried to end things I tried every other way to end this I tried this lie and this lie and this lie but nothing would work."
Is Tuiasosopo Gay?
When asked by Dr. Phil if he is gay, Tuiasosopo said, "Honestly, I'm so confused, I'm so lost and just finding me." Via BuzzFeed Sports, he later added the following:
Tuiasosopo had romantic feelings for Te'o. "You've heard of recovering drug addicts. It takes a lot of courage to recover from homosexuality— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) January 31, 2013
Via Paul Myerberg of USA Today, he would build upon that statement, saying, "To recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not only that, coming back to your real life, as hard as a task as that is I'm going to do all that I can to live right."
How does one recover from homosexuality? One imagines Tuiasosopo will come under a lot of scrutiny for those comments—even more scrutiny than he currently faces.
Did He Perform the "Lennay Kekua Voice" For Dr. Phil?
Tuiasosopo initially balked at doing the voice, saying he was embarrassed. Dr. Phil didn't let up, even giving him a screen to hide behind for privacy. And just as he was about to perform the voice...
The interview ended. I guess you'll have to tune in tomorrow, folks. That's how you bring the viewers back for another hour.