Another day, another layer to the Manti Te’o hoax story. It seems it won’t be too much longer before we start running out of layers — barring a dramatic and breaking development, that is.
Yesterday, the lawyer representing Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to be behind the Lennay Kekua hoax, claimed his client was the voice on the other end of the line during phone calls between “Kekua” and Te’o. On the same day, and in an interview with Katie Couric, Te’o shared multiple voicemails said to be from Kekua. All of them contained what sounded like a girl’s voice on the other end. If Te’o was truly duped to the extent he claims, it would have been understandable to not think twice about the sex of the person on the other end.
Conversely, it would be nothing short of astonishing if in fact Tuiasosopo was the voice — unless some type of alteration device was used — if for no other reasons than the consistency and length of time needed to make the hoax believable. That by itself is worthy of cynicism.
“If he somehow made that voice, that’s incredible, that’s an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day,” Te’o told Curic.
But, here we are a day later, and it turns out Ronaiah Tuiasosopo may not have been the one speaking to Te’o after all. According to the New York Post, it was Tuiasosopo’s female cousin, Tino Tuiasosopo, speaking to Te’o over the phone. One of Tino’s cousins told the paper “There is no doubt whatsoever that it’s Tino” after listening to the voicemails.
ABC News also took the voicemails to audio experts, who said it’s “impossible” for the voice on those messages to be coming from a man. The Post adds that Tino Tuiasosopo works for her dad’s construction company, a detail Te’o mentioned when describing Kekua. Te’o also claimed previously in an interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp that “Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing.”
What incentive Tino Tuiasosopo would have for being the voice of Kekua is unknown. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s attorney, Milton Grimes, did not reply to requests to comment by the Post.
So what does all this mean? Even though we’re over a week into this story, we’re not much closer to knowing what’s really going on. And we probably never will.
If Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was “determined to take the rap” as one of his relatives told the Post, who’s to say he’s not doing so for Te’o? Multiple accounts have stated Ronoaiah Tuiasosopo not only confessed to duping Te’o, but apologized — sometimes while crying. And none of this explains why Te’o informed Notre Dame of the hoax three weeks after he received a call from the suddenly alive “Kekua” — she reportedly passed away from leukemia last September — but later noted he didn’t fully believe it was a hoax until the Deadspin story broke.
Instead of becoming clearer with time, every twist and turn has made this story stranger, so it’s hard to know what to discredit and what to believe no matter how bizarre.
Te’o spoke publicly about the situation to Couric without shedding much additional light. That will likely be the last time he does so until he interviews with NFL clubs at the upcoming combine. The Tuiasosopo’s, meanwhile can’t even get their own story straight.
Don’t expect any of this to clear up soon.