Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Manti Te'o says he wasn't telling the truth, but not exactly in the way some people are thinking.
Manti Te'o has admitted to lying about Lennay Kekua, but maintained he was not involved in the hoax when speaking with Katie Couric in an interview scheduled to be shown on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. Te'o said he has known about some of the lies in the Kekua story for well over a month, and found out just days before he was scheduled to appear on ESPN for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
In explaining himself to Couric, Te'o asked for some empathy, and expressed the shock of finding out he had been lied to (there's also more evidence from September that he was legitimately hoaxed):
"Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12," Te'o said in an interview to air Thursday on Couric's syndicated talk show.
He also implied that he began lying after finding out to avoid embarrassment:
"Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?
Te'o didn't admit to lying in an earlier interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, but he did expand more on the timeline of events between finding out that Kekua was "alive" and finally confiding in his mother on Christmas Eve. He appears to have had many conversations with the woman claiming to be Kekua during that period, and says he was trying to piece together what exactly was going on. Schaap asked him if he immediately believed that the situation was a hoax, but by mid-December Te'o had not yet come to that:
Then she came up with this "no, the Lennay you know is the real Lennay, and that's me." I said, "Well, prove it to me." I said, "Skype me, FaceTime me," and she did the same thing. We would FaceTime, and she'd say, "I can see you. How come you can't see me?" I said, "I can't see you. I see a black screen. I see a black screen." So I figured; OK, this FaceTime thing ain't working.
So I told her, "OK, take another picture. And this time I want you to hold a paper up with your initials, MSMK, which is her initials, the date and you throwing up the sign." And she said, "Well, I can do something -- I can maybe do something on Pookah's birthday," which is supposedly Dec. 21st. And on Dec. 21st
As Te'o continues in the interview, he tells Schaap that he still believed Kekua to be real and alive, but that she had lied about her death and had been keeping an eye on him. Te'o says he didn't actually figure out that the whole thing was a hoax until Ronaiah Tuiososopo came clean to him on Jan. 16, the same day the Deadspin report came out.
Te'o was extremely detailed in the Schaap interview, so it will be interesting to see if he re-hashes some of what he said to ESPN, or Couric is able to find out more. His words are likely to be scrutinized for any inconsistencies, as the initial report from Deadspin quoted someone to saying he was "80 percent sure" Te'o was in on the hoax. That line will ensure this story doesn't go away any time soon.