“I wasn’t faking it,” the star athlete, 21, told the sports cable network’s Jeremy Schaap during the 2½-hour, off-camera interview. (Te’o’s comments, which were all in front of his lawyer, were later released by ESPN.) “I wasn’t part of this.”
Te’o did admit, however, that he “tailored” his tales so that others would assume he had “met her before she passed away.”
He also said one of three people who perpetrated the prank – Te’o identified him as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance from California, along with one other man and a woman – contacted him two days ago and apologized.
“When [people] hear the facts, they’ll know,” Te’o said. “They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”
Te’o told Schapp that he and Kekua never met face-to-face, and whenever he attempted to contact her via Skype and videophone calls, the picture was blocked. Planned meetings in Los Angeles and Hawaii always fell apart because she would cancel at the last minute or else send others in her place.
“My relationship with Lennay wasn’t a four-year relationship,” Te’o said. “There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end.”
At another point, he said, “She told me her dad passed away, and I was there. I was that shoulder to cry on. And I kind of just naturally cared for the person. And so our relationship kind of took another level. But not the kind of exclusive level yet.”
He further said that he lied to his own father about having met her, and from there the story snowballed, as Te’o apparently told others the same story.
After being informed in early September that Kekua had died of leukemia, Te’o said he continued to keep up the story about her publicly because he was uncomfortable admitting the two had never met in person.
“That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that. I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet,” he said. “So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away.”