Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o told U.S. interviewer Katie Couric he had no involvement in the hoax in which his online girlfriend turned out to be a fraud.
Te'o, 21, gave an exclusive interview to ABC's Couric about the story that surfaced last month, saying he had been tricked into believing his online girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, had died of cancer in September.
Asked in the interview, which aired Thursday on "Katie," if he had "any involvement in creating the scam," Te'o replied, "No, I did not."
"I think what people don't realize is the same day everybody else found out about this situation, I found out," he said. "I got the call on Dec. 6, saying that she was alive and from Dec. 6 to Jan. 16, my whole reality was that she was dead. Now all of a sudden she was alive. At that time, I didn't know it was just somebody's prank."
Te'o also admitted he lied to the media about how he met Kekua, adding, "For people feeling that they were misled, that I'm sorry for."
"I wasn't as forthcoming about it, but I didn't lie. I never was asked did I meet her in person. Through the embarrassment and the fear of what people would think about me being committed to this person I didn't have a chance to meet and she all of a sudden died, that scared me. And to avoid any further conversation, I wasn't as forthcoming as I should have been," he said.
Pressed to comment on how the story had made him a sympathetic figure, Te'o said: "The only thing I basked in is that now I had an impact on people. That people turned to me for inspiration. I think that was the only thing I focused on. My story I felt was a guy in times of hardship and times of trial really held strong to his faith ... and family. I thought that was my story."
Even if that hardship was exaggerated? Couric wanted to know.
"What I went through was real," Te'o said. "The feelings, the pain, the sorrow -- that was all real. That was something I can't fake."
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