Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who carried on a nearly two-year hoax that fooled star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o into thinking he had a girlfriend that didn’t exist, opened up to Dr. Phil McGraw in an interview set to air later this week.
Dr. Phil unveiled some of the key revelations from the interview on the Today show Wednesday morning — including that he’d asked if Tuiasosopo had fallen in love with Te’o.
“I asked him straight up, ‘Was this a romantic relationship with you?’ And he says yes. I said, ‘Are you then therefore gay?’” McGraw told Mike Taibbi on NBC’s Today show. “And he said, ‘When you put it that way, yes.’ And then he caught himself and said, ‘I am confused.’’’
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,’’ McGraw told Taibbi.
Tuiasosopo’s feelings aren’t necessarily shared by the man he conned, Manti Te’o, who told Katie Couric last week that he was “far from gay.” The interview with Tuiasosopo will air in two parts, on episodes of Dr. Phil Thursday and Friday.
It was reported last week that the female voice on the other end of the line was not a woman at all, but was instead Tuiasosopo himself — a report he confirmed to McGraw. Perhaps it wasn’t so far-fetched that Te’o was fooled by the 22-year-old; audio of messages from “Lennay Kekua” are fairly convincing, and the New York Daily News reported that “Tuiasosopo’s résumé includes vocal and dramatic training.”
The tawdry tale broke earlier this month after a detailed investigation by Deadspin. Two reporters were unable to find any record of Lennay Kekua, Te’o supposed girlfriend, whom he said died of leukemia in September. Te’o had claimed he and Kekua, a Stanford student, had been dating for about a year and spread a number of touching stories about her, including that they would fall asleep on the phone together. “When he woke up in the morning his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line,” he told Sports Illustrated in September.
Several observers, including the reporters of the original story, speculated as to whether Te’o himself might have been involved in the hoax, given the amount of detail he added about his relationship. But Tuiasosopo said that Te’o had nothing to do with it. “Absolutely unequivocally no,” McGraw said on the Today show.