Manti Te’o: I was duped!

In a 2 1/2-hour interview with ESPN, the Notre Dame star insists he had no knowledge of the Lennay Kekua hoax

Topics: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, ESPN, College Football, Sports,

Manti Te'o: I was duped! (Credit: AP/Joe Raymond)

Manti Te’o really was the victim of an elaborate ruse. At least that’s what Manti Te’o would have you think. In an interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, the fallen Notre Dame star insists he had no knowledge of the hoax allegedly perpetrated by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and two others to make him believe he was in a relationship with a woman named Lennay Kekua.

Some of Te’o's key claims from their 2 1/2-hour conversation:

• He tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a “black box” and wasn’t seen.

• He planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.

• The first time he met Tuiasosopo was in Los Angeles. Notre Dame beat USC there on Nov. 24.

• A group of people connected to Tuiasosopo showed up at the team hotel, after curfew, for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te’o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the hotel lobby. Someone in the group called Te’o, saying they were waiting for Kekua to join them in the lobby and asking if she was with him. Te’o then hung up. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.

• Te’o was never asked for money during the plot, but Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money. Te’o did not provide his account number.

According to Schaap, despite a preponderance of evidence, Te’o wasn’t fully convinced his girlfriend didn’t exist until just two days ago.

Jacob Sugarman is Salon's cover editor and the editor of Open Salon. You can follow him on twitter @jakesugarman.

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