Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the hoaxer behind the Manti Te’o prank, revealed during the second part of an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw that he had been molested as a child. In fact, he told McGraw that he had been repeatedly touched by a family friend starting when he was 12.
Tuiasosopo, 22, said tricking the Notre Dame football player into falling for a fake woman he had created online had “everything to do” with escaping real life.
He told McGraw that he had been repeatedly molested by a family friend starting when he was 12.
Tuiasosopo explained that by creating the fictitious love interest of Te’o, Lennay Kekua, he was able to live in an alternate reality and prove to himself that he was a good person.
Tuiasosopo did not identify his alleged molester in the interview and did not specify if he had gone to the authorities.
In the fall of 2012, Te’o told many media outlets that both his grandmother and his girlfriend had passed away on September 11, 2012, within a six-hour span.
The college football player also said that his girlfriend, Stanford University student Lennay Kekua, had died after suffering a car accident and subsequently battling leukemia.
Te’o did not miss any football games for Notre Dame, saying that he had promised Kekua that he would play even if something had happened to her.[
Many sports media outlets reported on these tragedies during Te’o’s strong 2012 season and emergence as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
After receiving an anonymous email tip in January 2013, reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of the sports blog Deadspin conducted an investigation into Kekua’s identity. On January 16, they published an article alleging that Kekua did not exist, and pointing to a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as involved in the hoax of her relationship with Te’o.
Tuiasosopo has been described as a family friend or acquaintance of Te’o. Pictures of Kekua that had been published in the media were actually of a former high school classmate of Tuiasosopo.
Notre Dame issued a statement that Te’o “had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia.”