In his first public remarks since the story surfaced, the sport star highlighted that he was not involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax.
“No. Never,” Te’o said during an interview. “I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this.”
He went further, revealing that he didn’t even know for sure that “Lennay Kekua” never existed until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called Te’o to acknowledge him that he was behind the hoax.
The Heisman finalist revealed that he received a Twitter direct message from Tuiasosopo where the latter said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman. Te’o then talked to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday.
“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” Te’o said. Asked who they are, he said: “I don’t know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
Previous reports claim that the 22-year-old California man was at least a family friend of the Te’os. Alema Te’o, Manti’s uncle.
“I hope he learns,” Te’o told reporters of Tuiasosopo. “I hope he understands what he’s done. I don’t wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough.”
As The New York Daily News reminds, Te’o “met” Kekua on FaceBook two years ago and their relationship was casual until she told the linebacker that she been in a car accident and a coma.
“My relationship with Lennay wasn’t a four-year relationship,” Te’o said, according to ESPN. “There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end.”
From April until September, when the imaginary woman faked her death, the two “were inseparable by phone.”
However, Te’o never tried to visit Kekua at her hospital in California. “It never really crossed my mind,” he said. “I don’t know. I was in school.”
Te’o also denied accusations that he used the story of his tragic internet love in order to help win his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
“When (people) hear the facts, they’ll know,” he said. “They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”
Still, Teo revealed that he tried to speak with his internet girlfriend via Skype and FaceTime, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a “black box” and wasn’t seen.
He even arranged to meet her in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion the fake firl called off the meeting or sent others in her place.
Some sources reported of spotting Te’o and Kekua touching hands during an in-person meeting in 2009 at Stanford, but the sport star said that never happened and he didn’t know Kekua until 2010.
“I’d never told anybody that I’ve touched her hand,” he said.
Te’o said he still spoke of her in interviews because he was unclear what had really happened.
“I didn’t know, myself. I didn’t know what to believe,” Te’o said. “All I knew for sure in my head was that she died on Sept. 12.”
When asked what should happen to Tuiasosopo, Te’o relied: “I hope he learns. I hope he understands what he’s done. I don’t wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough.”