LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man who has admitted to fabricating Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te‘o’s fake girlfriend in an elaborate hoax told talk show host Phil McGraw he felt a deep romantic love for the football player, McGraw said on Wednesday.
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,” McGraw told the television morning show “Today” to discuss his two part interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, which will air on “Dr. Phil” on Thursday and Friday.
“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,'” McGraw told “Today.”
Te‘o has said in a previous media interview he is not gay.
The fake girlfriend hoax involving Te‘o, who was a finalist for college football’s highest individual honor the Heisman trophy, caused a sensation when it was revealed earlier this month on news website Deadspin.com.
Tuiasosopo says he played the part over the phone of Lennay Kekua, the fictitious woman who was Te‘o’s girlfriend in the hoax. Te‘o, 22, had spoken about the woman in media interviews, and reports described her surviving a car accident and then dying of leukemia in September.
Te‘o has said since the hoax was exposed that he was the victim of an elaborate prank, that he never met Kekua and that his acquaintance Tuiasosopo admitted to him that he was the one who played the part of Lennay.
Dr. Phil said in a segment on “Today” on Wednesday that after an extensive interview with Tuiasosopo, he believes Te‘o had no role in creating the hoax.
“Absolutely, unequivocally, no,” McGraw said, in pinning the blame for the scheme on Tuiasosopo.
The NBC morning program also showed some comments Tuiasosopo made in his interview for the “Dr. Phil” daytime program.
“There are many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up,” Tuiasosopo told “Dr. Phil.”
“But something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or in Lennay’s life, in this case in my life,” Tuiasosopo said.
Tuiasosopo, 22, is from southern California and played high school football in 2005 at Antelope Valley High north of Los Angeles, according to media reports. Tuaisosopo’s attorney had previously told reporters his client was behind the hoax.
Before the hoax was exposed, a photo of a woman who was described as Lennay Kekua was presented in media reports about Te‘o and his struggles to overcome her death and that of his grandmother, who actually did pass away.
But the photo of Kekua was taken from a Facebook profile of a California woman who said she was unaware of the scheme, according to Deadspin.com.
Te‘o told Katie Couric in a broadcast of her show “Katie” last week that he received a telephone call from the person claiming to be Kekua on December 6 - two days before the Heisman presentation. But he said he was not really certain she never existed until Tuiasosopo’s later confession to him.
The linebacker, during the Katie Couric interview, presented a voice mail he received from the person he said he thought was Kekua. “Doesn’t that sound like a girl?” Te‘o told Couric.
Te‘o also told Couric he is not gay. “No, far from it,” he said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay