Man at center of Te'o hoax says he was molested
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 2:50 p.m.
The man who says he tricked Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o into falling for a fake woman he created online claims 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, beginning at age 12, by someone who was close to his father, a church pastor and youth minister.
“I felt that I couldn't do things, accomplish things, pursue things, live out as Ronaiah,” Tuiasosopo said. “And I felt the need to create this. It has everything to do with what I went through as a child.”
Tuiasosopo did not identify his alleged attacker by name and did not say whether he had told police about his claim.
His father, Titus Tuiasosopo, said it was difficult to hear the details of the abuse his son suffered.
“When he told me the location, the time, I could go back and vividly remember those trips, the times that these guys came over,” he said. “That part, right there, was kind of gut wrenching for me.”
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo said he built the online persona of Lennay Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te'o said he fell in love with despite never meeting in person. Tuiasosopo then killed off the character last September.
He said creating Kekua — who met Te'o online during the player's freshman year at Notre Dame — allowed him to live in an alternate reality and helped validate that he was a good person.
“When I looked at Lennay through Manti's eyes, I got a glimpse of who I was as far as my heart,” said Tuisasosopo, who told McGraw that he fell in love with Te'o.
When Deadspin.com exposed the hoax in a story on Jan. 16, the report raised questions about whether Te'o was in on it. But Te'o denied he was involved.
Kekua “died” the same day in September that Te'o's real grandmother died, and the story of the linebacker playing through the double tragedy became an often-told tale as Notre Dame went 12-0 last season and earned a spot in the BCS championship. Te'o failed at the time to make clear that he had only known Kekua online and through phone calls.
Te'o and his family had no immediate comment on Friday.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Memo confirms VA Pittsburgh officials knew of Legionella threat long before made public
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Greensburg man lending his expertise to new cable series ‘UFO Files’
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- News Alert
- Time is ripe for this year’s Taste of Westmoreland
- Judge denies former city police Chief Nate Harper’s appeal
- Italian wines, cheeses offer a pleasant break from doldrums
- Mini cheesecakes are easy, impressive, gluten-free