Couric plays Te'o voicemails
NEW YORK — The person Manti Te'o said was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker “I love you” in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.
Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te'o claims were left for him last year. He said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.
After the first message was played, Te'o said: “It sounds like a girl, doesn't it?”
“It does,” Couric responded.
According to a report by the New York Daily News, Te'o was on the other line with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California, during every phone call. Tuiasosopo's lawyer, Milton Grimes, said the scam mastermind had Te'o believing “it was a female he was talking with.”
Couric's interview was the All-American's first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.
Couric addressed speculation the tale was concocted by Te'o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he was gay, Te'o said “no” with a laugh. “Far from it. Faaaar from that.”
The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua's first day of chemotherapy for leukemia.
In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te'o's phone.
The third voicemail was left Sept. 11, Te'o said, the day he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she “died.”
“Hey babe, I'm just calling to say goodnight,” the person on the voicemail said. “I love you. I know that you're probably doing homework, or you're with the boys. ... But I just wanted to say I love you and goodnight, and I'll be OK tonight. I'll do my best. Um, yeah, so get your rest, and I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams.”
Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Tuisasosopo.
“Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?” she asked.
“Well, it didn't sound like a man,” Te'o said. “It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that's incredible. That's an incredible talent to do that — especially every single day.”
Diane O'Meara, who was unknowingly the face of Kekua, said Tuiasosopo confessed to her that he created the hoax and wanted to end it before Kekua “died” in September, but Te'o wanted the relationship with Kekua to continue.
O'Meara said Tuiasosopo confessed in a 45-minute phone call Jan. 14 that he'd “stalked” her Facebook profile for five years and stolen photos to create Kekua.
The 23-year-old O'Meara, of Long Beach, said when Tuiasosopo sent her a Facebook message Dec. 16, it was the first time he'd contacted her since high school.