A Christian singer named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told TV talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw that he was the creator of a deception directed at college football player Manti Te'o.
In the heavily edited, two-part interview, Tuisosopo, a 22-year-old man, claimed to have crafted an online female personality named Lennay Kekua. He lifted photos without permission from a female acquaintance to carry out the alleged hoax. Tuiasosopo said he was introduced to Manti Te'o online and entered into a phone- and internet-only relationship with the 21-year-old football star. At some point, Te'o was told that the girlfriend had died from cancer. However, he later discovered that this love interest, whom he had never met, had never really existed.
Some observers reacted to Te'o's convoluted story by questioning the validity of the deception and by speculating that Te'o may have been a closeted gay athlete. Talk show host Katie Couric recently asked the Mormon football player why he had not wanted "a real girlfriend" with whom he could talk and spend time with in person. Te'o replied that he felt a connection to the phony Polynesian personality due to common cultural interests. When Couric asked Te'o if he was gay, he replied:
"No, far from it. Far from it."
Te'o did admit to Couric that he had lied to his father about meeting the elusive Lennay Kekua, in order to continue his "dad's approval of this young lady."
In today's interview, Dr. Phil got Ronaiah Tuiasosopo to acknowledge that the long-term exchange was a "love affair" and that he had been in love with Manti T'eo through this "character." When asked if he was gay, Tuiasosopo had this to say:
"Honestly, if you look at this situation and look at everything that I have been through, you would say 'Yeah, I am gay.' But I'm so confused. I'm so lost, and I'm just finding me. And this whole experience, and all these problems are introducing me to myself, and everything...."
"Yes [I had romantic feelings for another man.] You know, you've heard of recovering drug addicts. It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that. You know, to recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not just that, but coming back to your real life, as hard of a task as it is, you know, I'm going to do all I can to live right."
McGraw noted between clips that Tuiasosopo must be "misguided" and "tortured" to think he can recover from who he is.
When confronted about voicemail messages left by for Manti Te'o by a female-sounding voice, Tuiasosopo said he could not recreate that alleged voice again on camera. Dr. Phil said he was skeptical, but he promised that, in the Friday's second half of the interview, more truth would be revealed.