Mastermind behind hoax fell 'deeply in love' with Te'o
- Article by: LOS ANGELES TIMES
- January 30, 2013 - 11:09 PM
LOS ANGELES - For the last two weeks, the story of Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend has unraveled one layer at a time.
The Notre Dame linebacker spoke, then a Long Beach, Calif., woman whose pictures were used in the ruse came forward. But the biggest questions could be answered only by a 22-year-old man from Palmdale, Calif. -- the man Te'o and the woman alleged was the mastermind behind the hoax.
Now Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has broken his silence publicly, saying he fell "deeply, romantically in love" with the Heisman Trophy runner-up in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw set to air later this week.
"Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love," McGraw told the "Today" show Wednesday. "I asked him straight up, 'Was this a romantic relationship with you?' And he says, 'Yes.' I said, 'Are you then, therefore, gay?' And he said, 'Well, when you put it that way, yes.' And then he caught himself and said, 'I am confused.'"
The new revelations came a day after Tuiasosopo's attorney, Milton Grimes, told the Los Angeles Times his client "feels as though he needs therapy and part of that therapy is to come out of the closet, so to speak, and tell the truth." Grimes said Tuiasosopo is seeing a medical professional.
"His point is that he wants to heal," Grimes said. "He knows that if he doesn't come out and tell the truth, it will interfere with him getting out of this place that he is in."
The comments add another twist to a story so bizarre, reporters from across the country bombarded Tuiasosopo's family and friends after Deadspin.com revealed earlier this month that Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, did not exist.
Tuiasosopo, the report said, was the mastermind behind the hoax and used photos from an old high school classmate and social media to connect Kekua with Te'o.
Te'o repeatedly spoke to the media about his girlfriend, the car accident that left her seriously injured and the leukemia that led to her September death. The tale became one of the most well-known stories of the college football season as Te'o led his team to an undefeated season and a national championship game berth.
Te'o has denied any role in the ruse, saying he spent hours on the phone with a woman he thought was Kekua.
Grimes confirmed his client pretended to be Kekua, insisting it was possible that Tuiasosopo disguised his voice to sound like a woman, similar to role-playing or method-acting techniques.
"I don't think it's so unusual that a person could imitate that voice of a person of a different sex," Grimes said.
Grimes offered no explanation as to why his client hatched the plan but said he never wanted to hurt Te'o.
"He did not intend to harm him in any way," Grimes said. "It was just a matter of trying to have a communication with someone."
Tuiasosopo's interview with McGraw will air in two parts on the "Dr. Phil Show" starting Thursday.
© 2017 Star Tribune