‘I tried every other way to end this’
Tuiasosopo speaks publicly for the first time about posing as Lennay Kekua to Manti Te’o
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 01:02
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo fell as deeply in love as Manti Te’o did.
Tuiasosopo, the mastermind behind the fictional Lennay Kekua, spoke publicly Thursday to Dr. Phil McGraw on “Dr. Phil.” For the first time since the hoax was revealed, Tuiasosopo offered his side of the story.
“I grew feelings, I grew emotions that sooner or later I couldn’t control anymore and it just lingered on,” Tuiasosopo said in the interview, the second part of which will air today. “As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person. 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 McGraw asked Tuiasosopo if he was gay, Tuiasosopo said he was confused.
The 22-year old confessed to being behind the scam and said he did not perpetrate the hoax in order to gain money. He also added that his plan was cruel — but not a cruel joke — and that Te’o had no involvement.
“He said nothing but things about her heart and her character had had a major impact on him and though it was deceptive, there was a lot of positive that came out of it,” Tuiasosopo said. “He really did fall in love with this character and, you know, it is what it is.”
Tuiasosopo said he deployed Kekua’s leukemia as a plan to try to end things with Te’o.
“I tried every other way to end this. I tried this lie and this lie and this lie but nothing would work,” Tuiasosopo said.
So on Sept. 12, 2012, Tuiasosopo killed off Kekua, who had purportedly been battling leukemia, just hours after Te’o’s grandmother died.
Tuiasosopo also said Te’o and Kekua broke up two weeks earlier but continued to communicate. Tuiasosopo — who had access to Te’o’s passwords — checked on his Facebook, Twitter and Skype accounts.
While there were no changes on Te’o’s Facebook and Twitter, his Skype was different. When Tuiasosopo, posing as Kekua, asked Te’o if he had been Skyping other girls, the two got in an argument before Te’o said his grandmother died.
Tuiasosopo said the fight quieted down until Te’o texted Kekua admitting to Skyping other girls and said he didn’t need Kekua.
“It hurt me,” Tuiasosopo 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.
“Right then and there, I made the decision I can’t do this Lennay thing anymore and I ended it.”
But nearly three months later, Te’o received a call from Kekua, who he thought had already died. Tuiasosopo said he called because he wanted Te’o to know the truth.
“If the truth wasn’t known, it wouldn’t truly be moving on. It wasn’t the truth,” Tuiasosopo said. “I knew I needed to come clean and make everything right.”
Te’o said Tuiasosopo offered him a full apology two weeks ago.
Te’o and Tuiasosopo, who was acting as a family member of Kekua, met the night before the USC game in November in Los Angeles. Tuiasosopo said he wanted to confess to Te’o then but ultimately decided not to.
“I wanted to tell him everything right then and there and that’s the truth,” Tuiasosopo said. “But shortly after, his uncle and a lot of his uncle’s friends and some other family, they all came in … It wasn’t the right time.”
Tuiasosopo also said he was the voice behind the phone calls and voicemails to Te’o although previous reports said a cousin of Tuiasosopo’s was the voice.
McGraw asked Tuiasosopo to duplicate the voice but he initially declined. The program promised to air it during Friday’s show.
“Dr. Phil” airs locally on weekdays at 3 p.m. on WSBT.