(NEW YORK) — Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged mastermind behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend “catfish” hoax, told Dr. Phil that he fell in love with the Notre Dame football star.
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,” Dr. Phil McGraw told NBC’s Today. “I asked him straight up, ‘Was this a romantic relationship with you?’ And he says yes. I said, ‘Are you then therefore gay?’ And he said, ‘When you put it that way, yes.’ And then he caught himself and said, ‘I am confused.”’
Dr. Phil said that he and Tuiasosopo watched Te’o’s interview with ABC News’ Katie Couric on Jan. 24 and then sat down for their own conversation, which will air on Thursday and Friday.
He said that Tuiasosopo, 22, told him that his feelings were genuine during the two-year hoax, but he struggled to come clean.
“I wanted to end it because after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life,” Tuiasosopo said in a clip from the program. “I had to start just living and let this go. There were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up, but something would bring them back together whether it was something going on in his life or in Lennay’s life, or in this case, my life.”
Lennay Kekua was the name of the fictitious girlfriend that Te’o corresponded with online, and who supposedly died of leukemia while Te’o led his Notre Dame football team to the championship game.
Te’o, 21, told Couric last week that Tuiasosopo called him on Jan. 16 to confess to masterminding the hoax. Te’o doubted during the interview that the voice was that of a man. A lawyer for Tuiasosopo has claimed that Tuiasosopo used a falsetto voice to impersonate Lennay.
In one of the voicemails that Te’o released last week to Couric, the voice he thought was Kekua can be heard saying, “Hey babe, I’m just calling to say goodnight. I love you.”
In another voicemail, Kekua lashed out in jealousy, claiming a woman answered Te’o’s phone when she called him.
“I don’t know who answered your phone. I don’t care,” she said through tears. “This is my last time trying. You made it clear what you want. Take care.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jethro Mullen, Ravi Hiranand and Frank Pallotta, CNN
MC2 Amanda L. Owens, U.S. Navy
Heather Long, CNN