Hoax artist 'cared for' Te'o
BY PAT EATON-ROBB Associated Press
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 5:22 AM
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo fell in love with Manti Te'o and said all his energy went into pretending to be the woman the Notre Dame linebacker came to know as Lennay Kekua.
Tuiasosopo, the 22-year-old mastermind of the elaborate hoax that embarrassed Te'o and left him looking gullible, spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw for the "Dr. Phil Show," the first part of which aired Thursday.
Tuiasosopo said Te'o knew nothing of the scam.
"He had no involvement," Tuiasosopo said. "He did not know anything."
Tuiasosopo said he built the online persona of Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te'o said he fell in love with despite never meeting in person.
"I pretty much had this escape of Lennay and this was where my heart had pretty much invested, not just time, but all of my energy went into this," Tuiasosopo said.
He said he felt Kekua was a part of him, and grew feelings and emotions for Te'o that he could not control. He acknowledged that the hoax was cruel, but said it was never intended as a joke.
"As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person," he said, referring to Te'o.
When the ruse was reported by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16, the report raised the questions about whether Te'o was in on it. The story of how Te'o played through pain after learning about the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother on the same day led to an outpouring of support from Notre Dame fans.
Tuiasosopo said he was the voice of Kekua. He agreed to do the voice behind a privacy screen, something McGraw promised to show during part two of the interview Friday.