ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap just completed going over a quick recap of his two and a half hour off-camera conversation with former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o on the sports network.
In his report, Schaap reiterated that Te’o flat out denied any involvement in the Lennay Kekua hoax, a woman that Te’o believed to be a real woman with whom he was in a relationship.
In fact, Schaap said that Te’o was not absolutely positive that Kekua did not exist until two days ago, when, he says, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo—the individual originally accused of being the perpetrator in the Deadspin.com article that broke the news—called him following the article admitting to his actions and apologizing.
Te'o said he believed Tuiasosopo to be a cousin of Kekua's. He met him only once when Te'o had him as a guest at a Notre Dame game versus USC. Tuiasosopo, he said, told him that he never meant to cause so much harm and that the hoax got far too out of hand.
It was reported earlier in the day that Tuiasasopo also tearfully confessed to his actions to a church friend back in early December. In addition, it is believed that Te’o was not Tuiasosopo’s first target.
In the interview, Te’o admitted that he made a few mistakes along the way. One of them was lying to his father about having met Kekua in person before. The lie made its way into several newspaper articles and subsequently provided fuel for those accusing Te’o of being a part of the hoax.
Te’o made it clear that he never met Kekua in person. He said that he “catered” his stories in order to create the impression, or narrative, that they had met before she supposedly passed away from leukemia on September 12, 2012.
"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, and I didn't meet her as well".
Further elaboration on ESPN.com reveals that he attempted to “speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a ‘black box’ and wasn't seen”.
The major hurdle in Te’o’s case to clear his name in the involvement of the hoax was to persuade the public that his earlier claims to have met Kekua were made in embarrassment over being in an ‘online’ relationship.
If he is indeed innocent of any wrongdoing in this incident, then the case that he presented to ESPN would explain all of the reports of a physical meeting between Te’o and Kekua.
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