Yep, this is actually happening. And the strange story surrounding Manti Te’o and his fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, continues to get relentlessly more bizarre.
Te’o has stated multiple times that the supposedly online/long distance relationship he had with Kekua included phone calls that oftentimes lasted upward of eight hours as Te’o would fall asleep with the phone on. Seeing as the public face of Kekua is Diane O’Meara, who claims to have “never met… never spoke with… never exchanged words, tweet[s]” with Te’o nor had any idea she was part of a hoax, the next natural question would be who was on the other end of the line during those lengthy phone calls?
According to one claim, that voice — or perhaps some altered version — belonged to the alleged “mastermind” behind the Kekua hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Tuiasosopo’s attorney, Milton Grimes, told the New York Daily News that Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with” over the phone when “it was Ronaiah as Lennay.” Consistently and believably for hours and months on end, apparently.
(Update: Couric’s website had three voicemails allegedly from Kekua on her website. However, that page no longer exists. However again, Deadspin has picked up on them. You can listen to them HERE.)
“Come on, Hollywood does it all the time,” Grimes said. “People can do that.”
The Daily News adds that Tuiasosopo was “president of his high school drama club, performs with a Christian band and auditioned last year for the TV talent show ‘The Voice.’”
“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes told the paper. “It was establishing a communication with someone. … It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”
Though Norman Bates thinks that explanation checks out fine, it adds another twisted layer to a hoax that already contains a story from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser alleging Kekua faked her own death last September to avoid drug dealers.
Three months after that supposedly staged death, Te’o said he received a call from Kekua’s number on the day of the ESPN College Football Awards (Dec. 6). It wasn’t until roughly three weeks later that Te’o informed Notre Dame of the hoax.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation,” Te’o told Couric in a preview of his on-camera interview aired on Good Morning America. “I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12.
“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?”
Te’o has also participated in one off-camera interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap where he acknowledged “catering” his stories about Kekua. However, Te’o claims that he did not play any role in the hoax.