Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who has been publicly identified as being behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, admitted to deceiving the Heisman Trophy finalist in December, according to a friend in an Outside the Lines report, via ESPN.com.
The friend, a woman in her mid-20s who knew Tuiasosopo from church, agreed to be interviewed by Outside the Lines under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family’s safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated. She did allow for her voice to be recorded by Outside the Lines.
(Click here for a full transcript of Pete Thamel’s interview with Manti Te’o.)
She said Tuiasosopo told her Te’o was not involved in the hoax, and that he had concocted similar hoaxes on “other people.”
“He (Ronaiah) told me that Manti was not involved at all, he was a victim. … The girlfriend was a lie, the accident was a lie, the leukemia was a lie,” said the woman. “He was crying, he was literally crying, he’s like ‘I know, I know what I have to do.’
“It’s not only Manti, but he was telling me that it’s a lot of other people they had done this to.”
Notre Dame issued a news release and held a press conference Wednesday after Deadspin reported it could find no record of Lennay Kekua — Te’o's supposed girlfriend mentioned in several stories on the linebacker — ever existed. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said a university investigation found that someone using a fictitious name “apparently ingratiated herself” with Te’o, then conspired with others to lead him to believe Kekua had died of leukemia.
The woman who spoke to Outside the Lines said she urged Tuiasosopo to take responsibility when he called her as news of the hoax was breaking Wednesday. She is also concerned that Tuiasosopo might harm himself.
“I (still) am worried for him (Ronaiah), not just him and his family but I know that you can’t judge people like that and that’s why I continue to just encourage (him) to come out and tell the truth,” she said.
Questions about Te’o perpetuating the hoax remain after he was quoted discussing details of his relationship with Kekau in a Dec. 8 Web interview and a Dec. 10 newspaper interview after he told Notre Dame officials he learned that she never existed on Dec. 6.
In the video below, SI.com’s Pete Thamel discusses the information about Manti Te’o that has surfaced since he reported his Sports Illustrated story in October.