LOS ANGELES, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o said he hoped the alleged hoaxer he says invented his Internet girlfriend learns a lesson from the embarrassing incident.
In his first interview since the bizarre story broke, Te’o told ESPN Friday he wasn’t bent on revenge against the Southern California man he said was the mastermind of the hoax.
“I hope he understands what he’s done,” said Te’o “I don’t wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough.”
Te’o’s public image soared as he led Notre Dame to the national college football title game, but his story took a strange twist when deadspin.com reported his girlfriend — who he said had died of leukemia during the season — apparently never existed.
Te’o told ESPN the girlfriend turned out to be the product of the imagination and cyber machinations of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo of Palmdale, who allegedly created Lennay Kekua’s persona using such Internet tools as Twitter, digital photos and cellphones.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told reporters this week Te’o and Kekua developed a close relationship without ever meeting face-to-face.
“It roped him more and more into the trap,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times said romantic relationships between unwitting young people and Internet characters made up by hoaxers is not unprecedented. A recent movie called “Catfish” portrayed the phenomenon, and the cable network MTV even has a series in which online relationships are investigated to see if there are indeed real people involved.
The Times said the young woman whose photo and voice were that of the doomed Kekua was tracked down by its reporters and the syndicated television series “Inside Edition” in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County. The woman referred “Inside Edition” to an attorney and said “they will help you out.”
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