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Ronaiah Tuiasosopo — the man who admitted perpetrating a hoax that included pretending to be a girlfriend of Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o — told Phil McGraw in an interview that he was molested as a child.
“There were just some things that happened back then, that I felt then, that were just too horrific and too horrifying for me to share growing up with,” said Tuiasosopo on Dr. Phil. “And holding that in as a child, it just led me to wanting to escape my real life.”
Tuiasosopo, who stated that he pretended to be Lennay Kekua, a fictional woman that Manti had met online, said he was sexually assaulted in his youth. His parents, who also appeared on Dr. Phil, said they were shocked when their son told them about the abuse and the Manti Te’o hoax.
“He sat us down, before he even got to the Manti part of the story, listening to the abuse that he received, it helped put things into perspective,” said Titus Tuiasosopo, Ronaiah’s father. “It took a while to sink in; I didn’t really have a response immediately. My first response was ‘I love you, son.’ After hearing all of that, nothing changes my love for him.”
Ronaiah apologized to Manti Te’o, saying, “I can’t express how sorry I am towards Manti and his family, and everyone affected by this. I can’t express how sorry I am to my family and just those who have been there for me no matter what.” He added: “I hurt every day for the decisions I’ve made.”
Ronaiah had previously told Dr. Phil that he did have romantic feelings for Te’o while pretending to be Kekua on the phone with the football player.
Te’o said in a televised interview with Katie Couric that if he were to speak with Ronaiah, he’d say, “‘You hurt me.’ But after that, I’d say: ‘Hey, draw near to your family. It’s only in these times that you realize who is actually in your corner.'”
The hoax originally surfaced in January after the sports website Deadspin published a report exposing that the girlfriend of the Notre Dame football player didn’t exist.
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