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Manti Te'o Denies Role In Dead Girlfriend Hoax
American college football star Manti Te'o has insisted he played no role in the hoax involving his 'imaginary girlfriend'.
In his first interview since the scandal erupted, the Notre Dame linebacker said he was tricked by three people who have now admitted that they were behind the deception and apologised.
But Te'o accepted he did lie to his father about meeting the 'girl' because he was embarrassed they had never met - and to cover that up, he lied to everyone else.
"I wasn't part of this," he told ESPN . "When they hear the facts they'll know. Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing."
Te'o's virtual relationship began when a girl calling herself 'Lennay Kekua' sent him a friend request on Facebook. In the months that followed the pair had sporadic contact on the internet and over the phone.
But whenever he tried to speak to her on Skype, the picture was always blocked. On several occasions he arranged to meet her in person, but she would always call off the meeting or sent others in her place.
Te'o referred to Lennay as his girlfriend several times, but he denies creating 'Lennay' or her 'death' to boost his career.
After he received a message from someone who claimed 'Lennay' had died of leukaemia, Te'o admitted he misled the public about the nature of their relationship because he was too embarrassed to admit he had never met her in person.
He said: "That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet so I tailored my stories so people would think, 'yeah, he met her before she passed away'."
Te'o insisted he did not know 'Lennay' was not real until two days ago, when he claims he was contacted by a 22-year-old man who confessed he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman.
He said their relationship intensified after 'Lennay' told him her father had died.
"She told me her dad passed away, and I was there. I was that shoulder to cry on, and I kind of just naturally cared for the person," he said.
He was also once told 'Lennay' had been in a car accident and was in hospital in a coma.
"I would ask to talk to her, and the only communication I had was through Noah, her brother," he said. "He would put the phone right next to her mouth and I could hear the ventilator going and she would be breathing.
"They said every time I was on the phone the nurse noticed that she must have recognised the voice because she would breathe quicker and I could hear it on the phone."
When asked why he did not visit 'Lennay' in hospital, Te'o said: "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school."
When asked what he thought should happen to the alleged perpetrator, Te'o replied: "I hope he learns, I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I think embarrassment is big enough."