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Te‘o plays voicemails supposedly from Kekua

January 25, 2013
By RALPH D. RUSSO , The Associated Press

NEW YORK - 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 Len-nay Kekua, a woman the Punahou School graduate had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.

The interview was the Heisman Trophy runner-up's first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the death of his girlfriend in September was revealed earlier this month to be a hoax.

Article Photos

Manti Te‘o sits with Katie Couric earlier this week for an interview that aired Thursday.
AP photo

The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua's first day of chemotherapy for leukemia.

"Hi, I am just letting you know I got here and I'm getting ready for my first session and, um, just want to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye," the person said.

In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te'o's phone.

The third voicemail was left on Sept. 11, Te'o says, the day he said he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she "died."

"Hey babe, I'm just calling to say good night," the person on the voicemail said. "I love you. I know that you're probably doing homework or you're with the boys. But I just wanted to say I love you and good night and I'll be OK tonight. I'll do my best. Um, yeah, so get your rest and I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams."

Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Ronaiah Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California who Te'o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax.

"Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?" she asked.

"Well, it didn't sound like a man," Te'o said. "It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that's incredible. That's an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day."

After the first message was played, Te'o said: "It sounds like a girl, doesn't it?"

"It does," Couric responded.

Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke.

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."

Also on Thursday, the woman whose pictures were used in fake online accounts for Kekua said Tuiasosopo confessed to her via telephone as the scheme unraveled. Diane O'Meara spoke with The Associated Press in a phone interview with her attorneys in the room. She said Tuiasosopo told her he'd been "stalking" her Facebook profile for five years and taking photographs.

* The Associated Press' Tami Abdollah contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

 
 

 

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