The person Manti Te’o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker “I love you” in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.
Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te’o claims were left for him last year. Te’o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.
After the first message was played, Te’o said: “It sounds like a girl, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” Couric responded.
The voice of the woman is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man now identified as the person behind the hoax, his lawyer told the New York Daily News.
Milton Grimes told the paper that Tuiasosopo disguised his voice and assumed the identity of Lennay Kekua with the goal of developing a relationship with Te’o.
The Couric interview was the All-American’s first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.
Te’o’s parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn’t involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua.
Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te’o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation.
Asked if he were gay, Te’o said “no” with a laugh. “Far from it. Faaaar from that.”