There are many questions surrounding the bizarre Manti Te’o fake girlfriend hoax story, and chief among them is, who would do such and thing, and why?
The king of tough love himself Dr. Phil McGraw tries to get to the bottom of it when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the mastermind behind the complicated charade, speaks publicly for the first time on “Dr. Phil” in a two-part interview airing this Thursday and Friday.
Dr. Phil discussed what he learned from the lengthy interview with the 22-year-old California man for a segment Wednesday on “Today.”
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,” McGraw told NBC News. “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.’ ”
As for Tuiasosopo’s motivations, Dr. Phil says, “Ronaiah had a number of life experiences that damaged this young man in some very serious ways.”
Watch a Segment of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s Confession to Dr. Phil:
Eventually, the grand lie became an incredible burden for Tuiasosopo who wanted it to be over.
“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 told McGraw. “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.”
The interview does seem to settle one thing: ruling out the speculation that Te’o was somehow involved in the hoax. Tuiasosopo says no, Te’o was just “an innocent victim.”
After speaking with Tuiasosopo and his psychiatrist, Dr. Phil also said he believes “absolutely, unequivocally” that Manti Te’o was not involved in the charade.
Tuiasosopo duped Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o into an online relationship by creating an imaginary woman named “Lennay Kekua” who became Te’o's “girlfriend.” Te’o publicly mourned losing her during the height of the college bowl season when she supposedly “died” of leukemia on Sept. 12. He discovered the hoax after receiving a phone call on Dec. 6, but perpetuated the lie in the press until after the BCS Championship game Jan. 7. The fake girlfriend and her fake death were eventually exposed in an article on the website Deadspin on Jan. 16, causing the star college athlete severe humiliation and embarrassment.
The two-part interview with Tuiasosopo will air on “Dr. Phil” on Thursday and Friday.