You have probably heard about Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy candidate, whose dying girlfriend turned out to involve an on-line relationship with a woman who didn’t exist. Now he is being accused of knowingly participating in the hoax to take advantage of the sob-story to give him publicity. Some people are saying this is going to hurt him in the draft, with NFL teams not wanting to take him with this humiliating baggage. Finally Te’o has told his side of the story to ESPN.
I have no problem believing that the young man started an online relationship with someone he thought was sick and calling her his girlfriend, even though he never met her in person. And that it turned out to be a prank by an acquaintance of his–well, this is the virtual world that many people live in.From the Associated Press summary of the ESPN interview:
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o insisted he had no role in the bizarre hoax involving his “dead” girlfriend and told ESPN on Friday night that he was duped by a person who has since apologized to him.
In an off-camera interview Friday with ESPN, Te’o said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California, contacted him two days ago and confessed to the prank. Deadspin.com first exposed the scheme on Wednesday and indicated Tuiasosopo was involved in it.
“I wasn’t faking it,” ESPN quoted Te’o as saying during the 2 1-2 hour interview. “I wasn’t part of this. When they hear the facts they’ll know. They’ll know there is no way I could be a part of this.”
Te’o said he first met Tuiasosopo in person after the Southern California game in November. According to the linebacker, Tuiasosopo told him he was the cousin of Lennay Kekua, the woman who Te’o believed he had fallen for through Internet chats and long phone conversations. But Kekua never existed.
“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” Te’o told ESPN. “According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
The Tuiasosopo family has declined several interview requests from The Associated Press since Wednesday.
Te’o said he never met Kekua face-to-face and when he tried to speak with her via Skype and video phone calls, the picture was blocked. Still, he didn’t figure out the ruse.
He also told ESPN that he lied to his father about having met Kekua. To cover that up, he apparently lied to everyone else.
After he was told Kekua had died of leukemia in early September, Te’o admitted he misled the public about the nature of the “relationship” because he was uncomfortable saying it was purely an electronic romance.
What lessons are to be learned here?