Story Summary

Te’o’s girlfriend hoax?


In September it was widely reported that  Notre Dame football play Manti Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend had passed away on the same day.  The standout linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist played three days later and led the Irish to a win over Michigan State.

It was a heartbreaking, heroic tale but only half of it is true, apparently.  The website reveals the girlfriend, named Lennay Kukua, never existed.

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Another twist today in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax: The alleged mastermind behind it all says he fell deeply, romantically in love with Te’o.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is confessing these feelings to Dr. Phil during an interview that will air on his show Thursday.

Tuiasosopo also admitted to being gay, then backtracked, saying he’s confused.

He also confirmed that Te’o “absolutely, unequivocally” had no role in creating the hoax.

Katie Couric has released recordings of several voicemails left by a person pretending to be Lennay Kekua, the fictitious girlfriend of linebacker Manti Te’o. The voicemails were reportedly provided to Couric by Te’o.

According to a report by the New York Daily News, an attorney for the hoax’s alleged mastermind Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted that Tuiasosopo, a male, often spoke to Te’o over the phone while disguising his voice to be that of a female.

The voicemails below come from the SoundCloud account of, the website that first broke the Kekua story.

Te’o appeared on Couric’s talk show “Katie” Thursday afternoon, saying he did not lie about the hoax until last month, believing his girlfriend had died of cancer back in September. Sources say Te’o got a call in December from his supposed girlfriend that she had faked her death because she was afraid of drug dealers:

Here’s a clip from the interview:

Chicago Tribune contributed to this story

The woman, whose face was used in an internet hoax against Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o, says she’s a victim of identity theft.

Pictures of 23-year old Diane O’Meara were used to create the online profile known as ‘Lennay Kekua.’

Te’o says he thought Kekua was his real online girlfriend who died of leukemia a few months ago.

During the 2012 football season, Te’o repeatedly told the story about hearing that his girlfriend died right after his grandmother passed away.

But the face of Lennay Kekua was O’Meara, who says she had no idea what was happening and that she never heard of Te’o until the story of the hoax broke last week on the sports website Deadspin.

O’Meara told NBC News that an old high school classmate, named Roniah Tuiasosopo, is behind the whole thing.

“Roniah has called and not only confessed, but he has also apologized,” said O’Meara.  “But I don’t think there is anything he could say to me that would fix this.”

O’Meara says Tuiasosopo has been stealing photos from her Facebook page for the past five years.

She says he had not heard from him in several years, when he convinced her to give him a picture for a slide show that he was making for his cousin who was injured in a car wreck.

“He repeatedly reached out to me on Facebook and I almost felt guilty about not sending a photo with this sign, for this photo slide show,” said O’Meara.  “I mean he went as far as sending me a photo of his cousin with head trauma, in bandages, in the hospital with him.”

O’Meara says she doesn’t know why her face was picked for the Te’o hoax.

She says she’s not interested in pressing charges at this time.

Dr. Michele Kerulis, Director of Sport and Health Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology

Manti Te’o remains silent. Notre Dame, like most everybody else, apparently wishes he wouldn’t.

Outside of a prepared statement released by his agency, the former Heisman Trophy runner-up hasn’t spoken about the alleged hoax consuming him now, in which a California man purportedly duped Te’o into believing he had a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua who died of leukemia in September.

In a podcast published Friday morning, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — a staunch Te’o advocate — said the school is nudging its former star linebacker to make his side public.

“I don’t have any specific knowledge as to how and when,” Swarbrick said. “But I can’t fathom a circumstance where it doesn’t. I sort of share everybody’s view that it has to happen. And we are certainly encouraging it to happen. We think it’s important and we’d like to see it happen sooner rather than later.”

Notre Dame, of course, put all its cards and heft behind Te’o on Wednesday night, after a story initially broke the news of a possible hoax. Swarbrick inexorably depicted Te’o as a victim and gave a detailed account of the school’s version of events.

But Swarbrick stopped short of answering several key questions — most notably why the Te’o camp produced accounts of a face-to-face meeting with Lennay Kekua that never occurred — citing privacy concerns, among other things.

“It is in the Te’o’s family’s court,” Swarbrick said, when asked what’s next in this process. “As I tried to stress in the (Wednesday) press conference, part of what we are dealing with here is a commitment to student privacy. Generally we doin’t want to be the ones releasing information about students. We expect them to, when it’s appropriate to do it.

“And so I do think the ball’s in their court. Again, we are very much encouraging them to … (make) themselves available to explain and take questions. We think that’s in everybody’s interests. It’s our expectation at Notre Dame that they will do that. We were willing to go forward and do that and answer questions from our end and offer our support. We have every expectation he’ll do the same.”

Swarbrick said the school’s belief was that Te’o, with the help of his representation, would make the story public this coming Monday. That was before the bombshell dropped, after which “the family lost the opportunity to, in some ways, control the story,” Swarbrick said.

An ESPN report emerging Friday cited a friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged mastermind behind the hoax, who said that Tuiasosopo admitted to duping Te’o and that the former Irish star was not complicit.

Regardless, Swarbrick said he accepted the skepticism that the story doesn’t yet add up fully.

“They have every right to say that,” Swarbrick said. “Now, I have some more information than they have, but they have every right to say that. I don’t feel any sort of ill will towards that position.

“If I were on the outside of this, presented with the only facts I have at this point – and importantly, as of the time we’re recording this, Manti as yet to speak publicly – I think that skepticism is easy to understand. I just ask those people to apply the same skepticism to everything about this. I have no doubt the perpitrators have a story they will yet spin about everything that went on here.”

By Brian Hamilton Tribune reporter

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

Deadspin reporter Dom Cosentino discusses the Manti Te’o hoax after the site broke the story earlier this week.

Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o is keeping quiet about his dead girlfriend, which turned out to be an internet hoax.

But he many know the person behind it.

During the 2012 season, Te’o told reporters about how his girlfriend’s death inspired him to perform in games.

On Wednesday, Notre Dame says Te’o was fooled into thinking that the girl he met online, known as Lennay Kakua, was real.

But she wasn’t.

Deadspin, the sports website that broke the hoax story, reports that relatives and friends of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo say he created the online profile of  Lennay Kakua several years ago.

“They told us that he has been doing the Lennay Kekua fake online profile for several years, and that he’s caught other people in its trap- but that they caught on way earlier than Manti Te’o did,” said Deadspin editor Timothy Burke.

Deadspin also reported that Te’o and Tuiasosopo know each other.

Tuiasopopo’s father posted a Facebook message that asked the public to let Te’o pursue his dreams without judgment.

He did not say if his son was behind the hoax. broke the story of Notre Dame linebacker s Manti Te o s girlfriend hoax. The story was lead by Jack Dickey and Tim Burke but many other people contributed including Dom Cosentino who joins us live over the phone tonight.

Notre Dame Football was just a month into its season when a story about linebacker Manti Te’o emerged and followed him to the BCS National Championship Game.

Te’o played with a heavy heart after hearing that his girlfriend died of leukemia, shortly after the death of his grandmother.

His grandmother’s death was real, but the girlfriend isn’t.

Sports website Deadspin exposed the truth with a lengthy article on Wednesday.

It turns out that Te’o realized what was going on right after Christmas and told Notre Dame officials.

But the school kept quiet as the team prepared for the BCS game that took place weeks later.

“From the outset, we established a parameter that this was Manti’s story to tell,” said Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.  “We wanted to know it would be told. We wanted to know at the appropriate time when it would be told, but that it was his to tell.”

Notre Dame responded by saying Te’o was the victim of an elaborate hoax.”

“The single most trusting human being I’ve ever met will never be able to trust again in the same way in his life,” said Swarbrick.

“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating” said Te’o in a statement.

In September and October, Te’o told reporters that a 22-year-old Stanford University student named Lennay Kekua was his girlfriend.

He said that Kekua and his grandmother had died within hours of each other.

“I miss ‘em, but I know that I’ll see them again one day,” Te’o told ESPN, after a victory over Michigan State.

Deadspin said it started its own investigation after it received an anonymous e-mail.

“There’s no evidence of her existing in any way, other than, you know, after she had allegedly died. And we thought that was a little weird,” said Deadspin’s Timothy Burke.

Notre Dame says Te’o’s relationship was only online and on the phone.

“Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed,” Deadspin contends. “There was no Lennay Kekua.”

But the love story was too much for the mass media to pass up.

The South Bend Tribune in Indiana reported that the couple met after a football game in Palo Alto, California, in 2009.

Te’o’s father, Brian, was quoted saying, “They started out as just friends. Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple.”

Media reports indicate the parents never met Kekua.

But another football player said he did.

Former Arizona Cardinal Reagan Mauia told ESPN that he and Pittsburgh Steeler star Troy Polamalu met her in American Samoa.

“This was before her and Manti,” Mauia told ESPN. “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family.”

Notre Dame Vice President/Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick makes statement on Manti Te’o Girlfriend Hoax Allegations