The man who says he tricked Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o into falling for a fake woman he had created online says the hoax had "everything to do" with escaping from real life because he had been molested as a child.
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw for the "Dr. Phil Show," the second part of which aired Friday.
The 22-year-old Tuiasosopo told McGraw he was repeatedly molested by a family friend beginning at age of 12. Tuiasosopo did not identify his alleged attacker by name and did not say whether he had told police about his claim.
He says creating the fictional persona Lennay Kekua allowed him to live in an alternate reality, and also validated for him that he was a good person on the inside.
He also claimed that he is recovering from homosexuality, which he admitted was one of the motives behind the hoax.
“You’ve heard of recovering drug addicts? It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that to recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not just that, but coming back to your real life, as hard of a task it is, I’m going to do all that I can to live right.’’
Tuiasosopo also apologized to Te'o during a portion of the interview broadcast Friday.
- Without a doubt, the Manti Te'o story is one of the strangest to come from the sports world in recent memory. Who created a fake girl to interact with Te'o and become his girifriend, and how did he not suspect something when he claimed never to have met her? And what of the reports she really does exist? Like an onion, you have to peel back the layers of this remarkable story to find out just what happened, so here goes: Photo: Getty/Google Story of Te'o's girlfriend a hoax
- Te'o was a standout freshman at Notre Dame when he said he first came in contact with Lennay Kekua, whom he met online and was also Samoan. Though the two developed a close bond, they never met during their three-year relationship. Photo: Getty Images Nine baffling questions about Te'o story
- Or did they? Teo's father reportedly told the South Bend Tribune the pair first met at this game against Stanford in 2009, and Te'o himself reportedly told ESPN she was 'the most beautfiul girl I ever met.' Photo: Getty Images
- Te'o reportedly called Kekua 'the love of my life,' even though he contradicted the previous statement by often claiming they had never met, or even Skyped. Then, Kekua was involved in a serious car accident, and afterwards, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Photo: Getty Images
- Then, in a story that dovetailed so perfectly it could have been scripted by Hollywood, Kekua and Te'o's beloved grandmother died on the same day, Sept. 12, 2012. Te'o played in the Michigan State game that weekend, and dedicated the victory to their memory. Photo: Getty Images
- The Te'o-Kekua storyline was one of the major themes behind Notre Dame and Te'o's sudden rise to power. The senior linebacker finished second in the Heisman voting behind winner Johnny Manziel, and Notre Dame earned its first BCS National Championship Game berth after compiling a perfect 12-0 record. Photo: Getty Images
- Two days before the award was announced, Te'o said he received a call from someone using Kekua's voice -- and then he stayed quiet for three weeks, choosing to tell Notre Dame officials Dec. 26, when the school launched its investigation. Photo: Getty Images
- Finally, after receiving an unsolicited e-mail from an anonymous source, editors at Deadspin.com investigated the story and discovered Kekua did not exist, and that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, with Te'o's good friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo a central figure. But why would he want to humiliate his own friend, and what exactly did Te'o know? Within hours of the report going viral, Notre Dame held a hastily-called press conference, where athletic director Jack Swarbrick (pictured) said Te'o was the victim of a 'very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax.' Photo: AP in English
- While Te'o released a statement that read in part, 'To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies, was, and is, painful and humiliating,' Arizona Cardinals fullback Regan Mauia claimed not only did she exist, but he met her in American Samoa in 2011. He added that he is 'close to' Kekua's family. Photo: Google Images
- What does this all mean for Te'o? Well, aside from putting his reputation and credibility on the line, there are some who claim that this incident showed at worst a poor judge of character, and victim or not, it could damage his already falling draft stock even more. The final result is there were no winners in this hoax, just a lot of confused people. Photo: Getty Images The legend of Te'o got complicated