(NEW YORK) — Manti Te’o still doesn’t know why he was the victim of a hoax that left him scared, confused and the butt of countless jokes, he said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Katie Couric.
Te’o says Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has spoken to him by Twitter and then in a phone call to confess to engineering the elaborate hoax, but gave little explanation for his actions.
“He just basically… explained what he did and why he did it,” Te’o told Couric. But he added, “He didn’t say why [he did it]. He just explained that he wanted to help people and that was his way of helping people, of being someone that he wasn’t…”
The star linebacker for Notre Dame added, “Obviously, it didn’t really help me out, but, you know, I didn’t really say anything. I was still speechless. I just found out everything that I believed to be my reality wasn’t actually reality at all.”
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Te’o, 21, has been alternately questioned and lampooned over his role in the hoax that led him and the public to believe that his girlfriend Lennay Kekua died of leukemia as Te’o led the Notre Dame football team to an undefeated season that culminated in the national championship game.
Te’o said Tuiasosopo broke the news to him about the prank in a direct message on Twitter on Jan. 16.
An excerpt of the message said, “It’s the 16th. I wanted to tell you everything today. I will not say anything to anyone else before I tell you everything. I would and will never say anything bad about you or your family. I completely accept the consequences to the pain I’ve caused and it’s important that you know the entire truth before anyone else.”
Te’o has struggled with becoming a national punching bag and the butt of many jokes.
“It’s been difficult,” he said. “Not only for myself, but to see your last name and just to see it plastered everywhere and to know that I represent so many people and that my family is experiencing the same thing. I think that’s what was the most hard for me.”
Click here for a who’s who in the complex hoax.
In terms of his prior relationship to Tuiasosopo, Te’o said that it is not true that he and Tuiasosopo were family or even family friends.
“Previous to that conversation that he and I had on Jan. 16, I had only talked to Ronaiah twice and he, from my understanding, was Lennay’s cousin,” Te’o said. “The only time I would talk to Ronaiah was when I couldn’t find Lennay.”
Te’o said his greatest regret is lying to his father about meeting Lennay.
“I think the biggest lie that I’m sorry for is the lie that I told my dad,” he said. “As a child, your biggest thing is to always get the approval of your parents and for me I was so invested in Lennay and getting to know her that when dad asked me, ‘Hey, did you meet her?” I said, ‘Yeah.'”
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