It wasn't a joke. That's what Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax, told Dr. Phil in a television interview.
"When people are saying it was a cruel joke, it was never intended as a joke, never intended to be funny," Tuiasosopo explained. "… The truth of it is … I grew feelings, I grew emotions that sooner or later I couldn't control anymore."
Tuiasosopo explained his relationship with Te'o began after he created a Facebook page for "Lennay Kekua." Tuiasosopo began randomly adding friends to Lennay's page, including Te'o's cousin. That's how he eventually "met" Te'o.
The interview jumped from that point to a discussion about the full-blown relationship between Te'o and "Lennay." The two fell in love, but according to Tuiasosopo they "broke up" several times and weren't "together" when he decided to kill her off.
Tuiasosopo insisted Te'o never had a clue "Lennay" wasn't real.
"No, Manti, he had no idea," Tuiasosopo said. "Truthfully, honestly, he had no involvement."
In September, 2012, Tuiasosopo sensed something wasn't right, so he asked Te'o if he was "Skyping" with other girls. Te'o told "Lennay" that his grandmother had died. They didn't discuss the Skyping question again, but later that day, according to Tuiasosopo, Te'o texted "Lennay" that he was talking to other girls and added "I never needed you."
"It hit me like a brick wall," Tuiasosopo said.
The next day, Lennay "died" of leukemia.
"I wanted to end it," Tuiasosopo said, "and after everything I had gone through I realized I had to move on with my life."
Tuiasosopo spoke about how he fell in love with Te'o, how he met Te'o once before a Notre Dame football game and why he brought Lennay back from the dead in December. He needed to "move on," he explained.
When asked if he is gay, Tuiasosopo said yes, then stammered for a bit before finally concluding that he is "so confused, I'm so lost."
The most dramatically ridiculous part of the interview was Dr. Phil's continued request for Tuiasosopo to recreate the female voice heard in voicemails to Te'o. Tuiasosopo insisted the voice is his, but when asked to speak in the voice, refused.
"I can't even if I tried," he said.
Ahh, but Dr. Phil was having none of it, explaining that he had the FBI compare the voicemails to Tuiasosopo's voice and the result is a "one in 10 million chance" they are the same person.
Tuiasosopo finally agreed to do the voice, but only behind a "privacy screen." Predictably, that's where the hour-long show ended. If you want to hear Tuiasosopo do the voice, well, you'll have to tune in tomorrow.
Seems Oprah could learn a thing or two from Dr. Phil about leaving something for the second-day interview.
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