Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s sit-down interview with Katie Couric aired today, with little in the way of new revelations than previously revealed last week in an off-camera conversation with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap.
In the interview, he continued to affirm that he was solely the victim, and not the perpetrator, of a hoax, in which he was coerced into believing in the existence of a female character by the name of Lennay Kekua.
Te’o did provide some more details on certain issues. He said that when the hoaxer called him on December 6th in character —months after that character had “died”—he demanded that Lennay provide her with a new picture with her initials and the date on it and to give a specific hand gesture.
That is the story behind the following picture, which the perpetrator—Ronaiah Tuisasospo—evidently used to attempt to further the hoax. The woman, named Diane O’Meara, is a former high school classmate of Tuiasosopo’s, and was tricked into taking the picture for, she was told, his cousin, who had been in a car accident.
Another key piece of data that Couric revealed was that her staff and network validated Te’o’s claims about an extensive phone record with the hoaxer. Earlier, Te’o provided an Excel spreadsheet listing all of the calls, but it could not be independently verified that way.
Te’o’s parents also spoke during the interview, which is the first time that they have publicly spoken since the scandal broke. In addition, voicemail messages were played that were left by the Kekua character.
Perhaps more critical than anything revealed in the interview, however, was the lawyer of Tuiasosopo speaking out today. The lawyer, Milton Grimes, spoke to The New York Daily News, essentially affirming Te’o’s story that he was not complicit in the deceit.
In an article published today, Grimes is quoted as saying that Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with” on the phone for all those months, when in reality “it was Ronaiah as Lennay”.
The article notes that Tuiasosopo has had vocal and dramatic training in his background, and he is known to sing at his father’s church. “He was president of his high school drama club, performs with a Christian band and auditioned last year for the TV talent show ‘The Voice,’, the article continues.
Grimes said the delay in his client’s making a public statement is tied to a California law that went into effect Jan. 1 — making it a crime to create a false identity online.
Tuiasosopo is seeing a mental health professional and wants to tell his side of the story, the lawyer said.
Grimes did insist that the timing of Kekua’s tragic “demise,” within hours of the grandmother’s death, was just a strange coincidence.
And he was adamant his client is a good guy who simply made a mistake.
“He’s torn by this,” Grimes said. “He didn’t mean for anyone to be hurt. Anything that he has done, he has apologized to those he could apologize to.”
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