The "confused" man behind the Manti Te'o fake-girlfriend hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, is speaking out publicly for the first time — and it appears he'll confess to the whole thing and claim to be the voice of Lennay Kekua, all while coming out as gay. "I wanted to end it," Tuiasosopo tells Phil McGraw, insisting that Te'o had no role in perpetrating the hoax. "I just had to start living and let this go," he said. Tuiasosopo's two-part interview on the syndicated Dr. Phil show doesn't air until tomorrow and Friday, but just like Like the extended lead-up to Katie Couric's interview with Te'o last week, NBC is teasing out the juicy parts early, complete with the host's questioning on some of the most prominent rumors to emerge from the scandal on the Notre Dame football star. McGraw's recounted the interview this morning on the Today show:
"I said, are you then, therefore, gay? And he says, 'Well, when you put it that way, yes.'"
That admission — albeit a nervous one — seems to begin to answer all the questions as to why a grown man might assume the fake identity of a female Stanford graduate, then carry out an online and phone relationship with a star linebacker and ultimately fake the fake girlfriend's death. Tuiasosopo, according to the Dr. Phil tease, goes on to walk back his coming out: "I am confused," Tuiasosopo says. In one of the only notable moments of his incomplete interview with Couric last week, Te'o adamantly denied that he was gay: "Far from it," he told Couric. "Faaaarrrr from it."
Compounding the ongoing confusion over the scandal is that Tuiasosopo, in the Dr. Phil interview, is sticking to the assertion that he was disguising his voice and was, in fact, the person that Te'o thought he was talking to on the phone all those months. Tuiasosopo's lawyer has said the young man was disguising his voice, though a conflicting report from The New York Post claimed that a female cousin was in on the scheme. Not that the mini-controversy over voice disguise might change the public perceptions of the case, exactly, but it does begin to give you an idea of how invested Tuiasosopo was into the relationship.