Te'o believed girlfriend to be real weeks after hoax was reveale - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Te'o believed girlfriend to be real weeks after hoax was revealed

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In his first interview with the media since news broke that he had been the victim of "a sad and very cruel deception," former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap on Friday that he had not been entirely convinced his girlfriend was not real until the man who is believed to have been behind the hoax confessed two days ago. 

During the two-and-a-half hour interview, which was not recorded on camera, Schaap says Te'o "answered every question" he posed and "went back to the beginning" of his supposed relationship with Lennay Kekua.

Te'o reportedly told Schaap that he was not involved in creating the hoax. 

"Never, not ever," said Te'o. "When (people) hear the facts, they'll know. They'll know that there is no way I could be part of this."

Te'o also said he did not make up anything to help his Heisman Trophy candidacy, but admitted to lying to his father about having met his girlfriend in person, claiming to have been embarrassed about admitting he had met Kekua online. 

"That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that, I knew that it was crazy that I was with someone I didn't meet," said Te'o, when he was asked to explain. "So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, 'Yeah, he met her before she passed away' so people wouldn't think that I'm some crazy person."

Te'o claims to have met Kekua on Facebook and casually corresponded with her over a year before things became more serious after she told him her father had passed away. 

Schaap questioned Te'o about the nature of his relationship with Kekua, including why he had never made face-to-face contact with her or gone to see her after he found out she had supposedly been hospitalized following a car accident.

"It never really crossed my mind," Te'o said. "I don't know. I was in school."

Te'o also told Schaap that he tried on several occasions to Skype or Facetime with Kekua, each time without success.

On Wednesday, Te'o says, he was contacted by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man identified in a Deadspin.com article as having been the mastermind behind Kekua, who reportedly confessed that he had created Kekua, along with another man and a woman.

"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o said during the interview. When asked who the others were, Te'o reportedly replied, "I don't know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."

Te'o told Schaap that Tuiasosopo apologized to him for the incident and, when asked about him, said "I hope he understands what he's done."

On SportsCenter, Schaap appeared certain that Te'o was in fact the victim of a hoax, and said Te'o "convincingly" and "unflinchingly" answered every question he was asked during the interview.

The La'ie native and Punahou graduate was thrust into national headlines on Wednesday, after the sports news website Deadspin published an article that revealed Te'o's girlfriend never actually existed.

The story of "Lennay Kekua" and her untimely death from leukemia on the same day as Te'o's grandmother had been widely reported as a motivational force for the decorated athlete. Citing several sources, the site alleged that Te'o played a role in creating and perpetuating the tale of this fictional character.

Stay with Hawaii News Now for the developing details.

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