Manti Te'o on 'Katie': 7 things we learned that didn't really clear up the fake girlfriend mystery
Today we got to hear from the supposedly duped man himself.
by Gena Kaufman
We've been puzzling over the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax for a week now (and even contemplating whether we're all catfishes ourselves), and today we got to hear from the supposedly duped man himself. Katie Couric nabbed an exclusive interview with Te'o and his parents and it aired today on her show, Katie.
Here are some things we learned about the story of Manti and "Lennay"... and why none of them cleared up that much of the mystery of the most confusing relationship hoax we've ever heard of:
1. He did lie, at least a little. Manti claimed that while he wasn't completely forthcoming, he didn't lie. When Katie rightfully accused him of splitting hairs with the definition, he admitted to lying to his dad about meeting Lennay when home in Hawaii (he called it "the biggest lie" he was sorry for), but said he just wanted his dad to approve of his relationship. He also confessed to keeping up appearances of the story with the public after learning something was amiss out of confusion and embarrassment.
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2. However, the phone records are real. Katie confirmed that they had checked Manti's phone records and found a whole lot of calls. She also played three voicemails Lennay had left Manti, including one in which she was supposedly upset about another girl answering his phone. Manti claimed that he didn't know if it was a man or a woman actually on the phone, but expressed his awe at the "incredible talent" it would take for a man to sound so much like a woman.
3. Manti claims he found out the same day we all did. According to Manti, what he discovered on Dec. 6 was that Lennay was still alive. Until the news broke, he says didn't know her very existence was a hoax.
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4. He had reason to suspect right from the beginning. According to Katie, Lennay reached out to Manti on Facebook during his freshman year. Katie showed a FB message from Manti to a friend, Lyle Moevao, saying "it does seem kinda weird and so i was like wonderin if it was someone else pullin a prank or something." Manti's answer to Katie's question of why he doubted Lennay's authenticity (but got over his doubt) was equally confusing. He mentioned that they were friends and he knew of other boyfriends she had, and that he confirmed with several people that she was a real person. How many people were in on this, or were those people duped too? I'm lost.
5. Manti Te'o is much more forgiving of technological cluelessness (or more clueless himself) than most people under the age of 30. Katie busted out a classic "Really?!?" face and zinged, "Are you that technologically challenged?" when Manti explained why he wasn't suspicious when Lennay was unable to set up a video chat successfully. She has a point. Even my dad can easily use FaceTime on his iPhone, and I think he thinks you can only check your email from your home computer.
6. He emphatically denies being gay. When Katie asked him about the speculated theory that he invented a girlfriend to hide his sexuality, Manti denied that he was gay, saying, "No. Far from it. Faaaaar from it." The audience laughed, but is this even funny? The fact that people automatically assume a young athlete would feel the need to invent a girlfriend to pretend he wasn't gay makes me sad on all kinds of levels.
7. Katie Couric is super-unimpressed with Manti's dedication as a fake boyfriend. Katie appeared to have some serious trouble believing Manti would not visit "the love of his life" after she was supposedly in a major car accident--"It's a two hour drive ... Manti, that just doesn't make sense to me." Manti's response? It doesn't make sense to him either, but he claims he didn't want to explain to his parents that he missed his flight because of a visit. Katie blinked in disbelief so many times I think I felt a breeze from the television.
So there are the highlights. I feel as confused by the story as I did when I first read it. I was touched by the emotion his parents were clearly feeling at their son's embarrassment, but I found a lot of his answers to be oddly vague and circular. But there's no one I feel worse for than the poor girl whose photo was used as the face of Lennay. Can they please stop flashing it all over television? Anyway, I suppose this situation is just never going to fully make sense.
Photo: Disney-ABC via Getty Images
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