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The woman who unwittingly played the role of Manti Te’o‘s fake girlfriend gave her side of the story in an interview on the Today show Wednesday morning, saying she empathizes with the college football star.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around this entire confusing situation myself,” Diane O’Meara, a 23-year-old LA-based marketing exec, told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, adding: “If Manti is really innocent in this entire situation, I empathize with him because I assume we would have the same emotions – frustration, anger, confusion.”
Just a week ago, Deadspin dropped a bombshell that sent shockwaves beyond the sports world when the website broke the news that the popular Notre Dame linebacker’s deceased girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, did not exist. Te’o has said he was the victim of an elaborate hoax; the alleged perpetrator is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, an aspiring pop star and former high school classmate of O’Meara’s.
O’Meara (who has a real boyfriend, not a fake one) said she’d only spoken with Tuiasosopo a handful of times while they were attending Paraclete High School in Lancaster, Calif., and hadn’t heard from him in five years. But recently, he reached out to her via Facebook to beg for a photo of her holding up a sign that read “MSMK.” His lie: he was creating a photo slideshow for his cousin who was injured in a car accident earlier in 2012. She obliged and her photo popped up on Kekua’s Twitter account.
Which begs the question: why would O’Meara be so forthcoming as to provide a personal snapshot to an acquaintance under shady circumstances?
“I could see how people would think that, but we’re raised to be polite, we’re raised to have a kind heart,” she explained. “He repeatedly reached out to me on Facebook, and I almost felt guilty about not submitting a photo with this sign for this photo slideshow. He went as far as sending me a photo with his cousin with head trauma, bandages, in the hospital with him, and out of the kindness of my heart, I thought I was just comforting somebody.”
As for Te’o, the college footballer will open up to Katie Couric on her syndicated daytime talk show Thursday; in his first (pre-recorded) on-camera spot since the scandal surfaced, he’ll appear alongside his his parents, Brian and Ottilia Te’o, who are also speaking out for the first time and say they were also victims of the hoax.
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