As he continues to insist that he wasn’t involved in a hoax and really believed he was in an online relationship with a woman named Lennay Kekua, Manti Te’o admits he lied at times to make people think he had met Lennay in person.
ESPN has posted what it describes as an edited transcript of Te’o’s conversation with Jeremy Schaap, and in it Te’o acknowledges falsely telling people that he had face-to-face meetings with Lennay.
One of those people Te’o lied to was his dad. Te’o said that while he was staying with his parents in Hawaii, he set up a meeting with Lennay. Lennay didn’t show (obviously, because she didn’t exist), but instead of telling his dad the truth about that, Te’o told his dad that the meeting went as planned.
“So when I got home, dad asked, hey, did you get to see her? And to avoid all the questions, I just said ‘yeah, dad, I saw her,’” Te’o told Schaap.
Te’o told Schaap that was the only time he lied to his parents about meeting Lennay. But that doesn’t square with what Te’o’s dad told the South Bend Tribune, which is that the first time they met was at Stanford when Te’o was there for a game. Te’o claims he doesn’t know where that story came from.
Te’o is far from the first 21-year-old to lie to his parents about the people he was spending time with, but he did, in fact, lie. And he admitted to Schaap that he lied to other people about having met Lennay in person as well. Te’o called that “my biggest regret.”
Although Notre Dame said it launched an investigation when Te’o told his coaches on December 26 that he had learned of the hoax, Te’o says that other than asking for a picture of “Lennay,” Notre Dame’s investigator never interviewed him. Which means that the off-camera questions from Schaap are the most thorough questions Te’o has yet faced.
Te’o should be ready for a slew of questions from NFL teams in the weeks ahead.