Manti Te'o has broken his silence over the dead girlfriend hoax, and he insists to ESPN that he was a victim the whole time: "I wasn't faking," he says. "I wasn't part of this." The Notre Dame star says he didn't know for sure until this week that "Lennay Kekua" never existed, when hoaxster Ronaiah Tuiasosopo fessed up via a direct message on Twitter. (The scoop from Deadspin came out a few hours later.) Te'o says Tuiasosopo had a male and female accomplice, still unidentified.
Te'o says he never met "Lennay" in person, but he lied to his father about doing so and misled reporters when talking about the relationship. Instead, he says he regularly spoke to someone he thought was Lennay by phone, and their ties deepened when he helped her (or so he thought) recuperate from a car accident and then battle leukemia.
- "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."
Te'o says he was told Lennay died in September, but then he got a call from her on Dec. 6 in which she says she had been hiding from "drug people." A few weeks later, over Christmas, he says he informed his parents and Notre Dame that Lennay might be alive after all, and the school started its own investigation. Some of the particulars of his account seem to contradict what Notre Dame has said, according to Deadspin