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Manti Te’o is breaking his silence on the shocking hoax scandal in which he says he was duped into dating a woman who didn’t exist.
The Notre Dame linebacker’s much-hyped, pre-taped sitdown with Katie Couric on her syndicated daytime show aired Thursday, and in a video excerpt below, he’s shown responding to Couric’s question about his phone relationship with Lennay Kekua, revealed last week to be a total fake, right down to her Twitter account.
VIDEO: Manti Te’o Defends Lying About Lennay Kekua
“I understand you would fall asleep holding the phone. Or with the phone next to you connected to this individual and then when you woke up, you would talk to this person,” said Couric, joking: “I hope you have rollover minutes by the way.”
“Mobile to mobile,” Te’o responded, cracking a smile.
Asked why he would do such a thing, he replied: “It goes back to what my parents taught me. To always be there for somebody when they need help.”
VIDEO: Manti Te’o: Fake Girlfriend Speaks Out
Kekua, 22, had allegedly been involved in a serious car accident before receiving a deadly diagnosis of cancer, from which she purportedly died in September. At one point, she was in a coma, and when she awoke from it, Te’o said he experienced the moment by phone.
“Well, obviously it was just breathing at first, and it was one of those where she was just breathing and … then she started to whisper my name,” he said. “And I jumped for joy. I was like, ‘She is out! She is talking!’ I kind of, I was a little confident and I was like, ‘See they were right, I … do help her.'”
Also in the interview, he shed tears over the hoax that was exposed by Deadspin and masterminded by amateur singer and Voice auditioner Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (whose lawyer says that his client impersonated Kekua’s voice. Related: here’s the audio of some disturbing voicemails of Tuiasosopo-as-Kekua that were released to TMZ by Te’o.)
Te’o said Tuiasosopo initially reached out on Twitter (via direct message) to apologize for perpetrating the hoax and later called him to do so. He previously knew of Tuiasosopo as Kekua’s “favorite cousin.”
“It didn’t sound like a man, it sounded like a woman,” said Te’o.
He said if he spoke with Tuiasosopo again, he’d say, “You hurt me,” and also advice the hoaxer to “draw close” to his family for comfort.
When Couric wondered whether he’d concocted Kekua to cover up his sexual orientation, asking Te’o if he’s gay, he replied: “No, far from it. Far from that.”
The college footballer’s father, Brian Te’o, also sat down for an interview with Couric.
“He’s not a liar. He’s a kid. He’s a 21-year-old kid trying to be a man,” he said, wiping away tears.
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