Dr. Phil McGraw said on the “Today” show Wednesday morning that he believes Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s hoaxster fell genuinely in love with Te’o over a two-year span of lies and deception.
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,” Mr. McGraw told NBC’s Mike Taibbi. “I asked him straight up, ‘Was this a romantic relationship with you?’ And he says yes.”
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo duped Te’o into an online relationship with “Lennay Kekua,” a fictional woman whom Te’o believed had died of leukemia last fall. Mr. Tuiasosopo contacted Te’o Jan. 16 and confessed to the hoax.
Dr. Phil previewed his segment with Mr. Tuiasosopo on NBC, saying that when he asked the 22-year-old if he was gay, he responded affirmatively.
“I wanted to end it because after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life. I had to start just living and let this go,” Mr. Tuiasosopo said during the segment. “There were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up, but something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or in Lennay’s life or, in this case, my life.”
Te’o said he thought of Kekua as his girlfriend, though the two had only talked on the phone and exchanged texts and emails. After Kekua’s “death” on the same day as the death of his grandmother, the sob story made national news.
But shortly after it came to light that Kekua was never real. People began pointing the finger at the All-American linebacker, saying he made it up for attention, but it was soon revealed that he, along with the rest of America, was tricked and Mr. Tuiasosopo was behind the whole thing.
During the preview discussion on “Today,” the TV psychologist said that Mr. Tuiasosopo had some life experiences that likely led to serious emotional damage.
The two-part interview will air Thursday and Friday on the “Dr. Phil Show.”