FORT WAYNE – Manti Te’o admitted to Katie Couric that he briefly lied about an online girlfriend, who turned out not to exist.
A portion of his first on-camera interview since the hoax was revealed Jan. 16 was broadcast Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Te’o told Couric he continued to talk about Lennay Kekua, who he believed died of cancer in September, after becoming suspicious about her existence after a Dec. 6 phone call from a woman claiming to be Kekua. Te’o maintained he had nothing to do with the hoax.
“Katie, put yourself in my situation. 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,” Te’o said in an interview he did with his parents that will air in its entirety today on Couric’s syndicated talk show.
“Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she’s alive and then I’m going to be put on national TV two days later,” Te’o added. “And to ask me about the same question, you know, what would you do?”
Te’o spoke of his girlfriend in a web interview Dec. 8 and again in a newspaper interview Dec. 10.
Te’o and Notre Dame have said the All-American linebacker was a victim of a hoax. Te’o didn’t inform the university about the situation until Dec. 26, and on Jan. 4 an independent investigator determined he was the victim of a hoax.
Te’o’s father, Brian, defended his son when Couric pointed out that people believe the former Irish star used the story for personal gain and to help his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. Te’o finished second in the Heisman voting.
“People can speculate about what they think he is. I’ve known him 21 years of his life. And he’s not a liar. He’s a kid,” Brian Te’o said.
On Tuesday, the woman whose photo was used as the face of Kekua’s Twitter account says the man allegedly behind the hoax confessed and apologized to her.
Diane O’Meara told NBC’s “Today” show that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo used pictures of her without her knowledge in creating a fake woman called Lennay Kekua.
Couric’s syndicated show “Katie” will air at 4 p.m. today on WPTA.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.