Manti Te'o to Katie Couric: "What I went through was real"

The football star speaks out on television for the first time it was uncovered that his dead girlfriend was fake

By Prachi Gupta
Published January 25, 2013 3:00AM (UTC)
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Americans were hoping for answers to the many questions raised by the increasingly bizarre "catfish" hoax Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o claims to have been ensnared in, attempting to understand how someone with such high visibility could have gotten into a relationship with a woman who had never even existed. Was Te'o part of the hoax? Was it a publicity stunt to propel him towards the Heisman Award? Did he concoct the story with a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo to hide his sexuality (that he's gay)? Or is Manti Te'o just really, really that gullible?

His first televised interview, hosted by Katie Couric, gave few definitive answers. The explanation Te'o's sticking with is the latter, though: he said that he's a man of faith, and had blinding faith in this woman. Te'o's parents joined him and Couric towards the end of the show to say they were proud of their son for how he treated Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend Deadspin uncovered as fake, whom they all believed to be real and in serious pain (Kekua's tragedies included the death of her father, a diagnosis of leukemia and a coma resulting from a car crash). "What I went through was real," Te'o told Couric. “It was very real, Katie. It was very very real.”


Despite all the red flags, despite lying to reporters about how the two met, despite the fact that Kekua contacted him again after she had supposedly died, Te'o maintained that his only regret over the whole affair was that he had lied to his dad about having physically met her. And assuming that Tuiasosopo did perpetrate the hoax alone, Te'o doesn't seem interested in any retribution. Teary-eyed, he told Couric, "As long as they’re okay (signals to family), I’m okay."

But another twist has emerged: TMZ has since learned that the voice of Lennay Kekua was actually also Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behing Kekua's social media accounts (though the voice on the voicemails do sound feminine). But thanks to Couric, we know that Te'o is "faaar from" gay:


Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Catfish Katie Couric Lennay Kekua Manti Te'o Ronaiah Tuiasosopo