Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hoaxer: Te'o better person due to 'relationship'

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

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, 22, the admitted 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, and he doesn't believe Te'o ever suspected Kekua was fake.

"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. Tuiasosopo said he killed off the character in September.

"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 he said it was never intended as a joke and that he got no financial gain.

"As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person," he said, referring to Te'o. "I did all that I could to help this person become a better person, even though I wasn't getting nothing out of it."

When the ruse was reported by the website Deadspin on Jan. 16, the report raised the questions about whether Te'o was in on it. Te'o has denied any involvement from the beginning.

Tuiasosopo said Te'o became a better person as a result of the relationship.

"If you really look at all his interviews, he felt that," he said. "When he was under the understanding that he lost her, he realized all the good that Lennay had done for him."

The Te'o family declined comment.

Tuiasosopo said he decided to confess to Te'o last month as the hoax was unraveling because he felt he could not go any further with his own life until the truth was out.

"You've heard of recovering drug addicts? It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that," he said "To recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not only that, coming back to your real life, as hard as a task as that is, I'm going to do all that I can to live right."

McGraw said that statement bothered him.

"I hope it's a pressure you don't put on yourself," he said.

Tuiasosopo said he killed the Kekua character on the day Te'o learned his grandmother died, following an argument with the football star.

Te'o had told Kekua he didn't need her, Tuiasosopo said.

"It hurt me," he said. "It hit me like a brick wall. I was like, 'Whoa, I've given so much into this.' And I realized right then in that moment, that I poured so much into Lennay, that I myself was getting nothing, and look what I was left with."

Hoaxer: Te'o better person due to 'relationship' 01/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays vs. Mariners, 7:10 Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.
  2. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  3. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand

    Bucs

    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'

    Blogs

    The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

    "We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.
  5. Lightning wing J.T. Brown on why he donated to remove Confederate statue

    Blogs

    Lightning wing J.T. Brown was back in his Minneapolis offseason home over the weekend when he saw on TV the violent protests in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue.

    J.T. Brown decided to get involved, donating $1,500 to assist in removing a Confederate statue in Tampa.