On Friday night, Manti Te’o broke his silence on the dead girl friend prank heard ’round the world. In an off-camera interview with ESPN, he denied being part of the prank, saying that “never, ever would I be part of this.”
The report said three people were behind the prank, led by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a friend of Te’o's who confessed to him earlier this week by Direct Message on Twitter (naturally).
Te’o laid out a timeline for ESPN that said the internet relationship with someone named “Lennay Kekua” began three years ago on Facebook. It was intermittent until 2011, when more phone and web contact took place. A first meeting on New Years Eve 2012 in Hawaii ended in disappointment when Kekua did not show up.
But the relationship didn’t die, and Te’o told ESPN, when he learned Kekua had leukemia, the two conducted long sessions on the phone and internet studying the Bible. Even Te’o's parents took part.
It was the day after Te’o's grandmother died that he got a call from someone saying they were a relative of Kekua with news of her death.
He mourned by sending flowers to an alleged home in Carson, California. But a few months later he was stunned when he got a call from someone who said they were Lennay.
Manti gets a big hint here. It was on Dec. 6th. “I didn’t know what was going on,” he told ESPN.
But he carried on with the tale, and admits to some fudging, his “biggest regret.” By now he’s thinking what we are all thinking. This guy is in love with someone he never met. Now she’s dead. So he wasn’t absolutely truthful at this point saying, “I didn’t want people thinking I was some crazy dude.”
OK, he’s not crazy. Just a young, gullible kid who got played.
Tuiasosopo wasn’t available to ESPN, so maybe that’s the imaginary interview we should do. If Te’o's the victim, he’s the perp. But he’s nowhere to be found.
Te’o was in Florida when he talked exclusively to ESPN.
“I think it started out as a joke, a joke that got out of hand,” said Te’o, who told ESPN his pranksters never asked for money.
And now that Te’o has spoken, do we know the whole truth? The off-camera interview was recorded for audio, accompanied by still photos. The restriction wasn’t explained. Why couldn’t he face up to the world? So while ESPN scored a news coup that leaves us closer to the truth, there are still some questions that remain about the three perps (supposedly a Tuiasosopo and two women) For all we know, they could be imagined. Like O.J.’s real killers. And Lennay Kekua.
That’s the level of trust we’re left with when it comes to Manti Te’o.
See my original post on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.