Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o made his first public, televised statements since news broke that his deceased girlfriend never actually existed. In preview clips that ran on Good Morning America this morning (the full interview is set to air tomorrow), the disgraced player finally admitted to Katie Couric that he played along with the hoax — at the end, at least.
Te’o revealed that he got a phone call from a person he believed to be his deceased girlfriend on December 6, 2012 — three months after he believed she died. He says this is the point when he joined the hoax, going from victim to complicit participant.
“You stuck to the script. And you knew that something was amiss, Manti,” Couric pointed out.
“Correct,” replied Te’o.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation … This girl who I committed myself to died on September 12. Now I get a phone call on December 6 saying she’s alive, and that I’m going to be on national TV two days later, and they ask me about the same question. What would you do?”
Te’o insisted that he genuinely believed that Lennay Kekua was a real person and that he was in a real relationship with her prior to discovering that he had been a victim of a “catfish-style” hoax.
It remains unclear why Te’o didn’t go public with the news that Kekua was a fictional creation as soon as he discovered it to be the case. There are still many cynics who believe he played along with the hoax because it bolstered his chances of winning the Heisman, college football’s top prize for individual players.