The Catfish King

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Manti Te’o, a star football player from Notre Dame, has revealed his Catfish experience to the world.

Te’o had been in an online relationship with a girl named Lennay Kekua since 2011. They met on Facebook when Kekua reached out to him while he was just a freshman. On Sept. 12, Lennay passed away from cancer, so Te’o thought. Lennay really did not exist. He was Catfished.

The person behind Kekua was in fact a man, Ronaiah Tuiasospo. Te’o knew of Tuiasospo, but only as Kekua’s cousin.

Later, Tuiasospo sent Te’o a direct message via Twitter apologizing for his actions. The message stated, “It’s the 16. I wanted to tell you everything today. I will not say anything to anyone else before I tell you everything. I would and will never say anything bad about you or your family. I completely accept the consequences to the pain I’ve caused, and it’s important that you know the entire truth before anyone else.”

Te’o broke his silence about this incident on the Katie Couric show, “Katie”, on Jan. 24. His parent’s also went on the show.

It seems ironic that a star football player from a Division one college could not find a girl that he could see everyday. Te’o is a Mormon, and so was Kekua. Te’o said he felt comfortable with Kekua, because they were both Mormon and they knew what to expect from each other.

Some may think that Te’o was apart of the scam, but indeed he was not. He only went along with it because he thought to be true.

“I was not apart of the scam. What people don’t realize is that the same time that everybody else found out she was dead, so did I. I got the call on December 6 saying that she was alive. From December 6 to January 16 my whole reality was she was dead now and now all of a sudden she’s alive. At that time I didn’t know it was somebody’s prank. The Biggest lie that I am sorry for is lying to my dad. He asked if I had seen her and I told him yes. As a child, your biggest thing is to always get the approval of your parents. I was so invested in Lennay and getting to know her that when my dad asked me, I said yeah,” said Te’o.

“If they say that Manti lied about something, then they might as well say the rest of us lied about what we are talking about today. The story about this as bazaar as it may seem, was reality for us. Yeah you can say in retrospect 20/20 the red flags all came up, but when you’re in the moment it’s everyday. I’m proud of this guy, and nothing that has happened in the last couple weeks can take that away. He is not a liar he is a 21 year old kid trying to be a man and I love him,” said Brian Te’o, Manti’s father.

Te’o expressed that the hoax was not a cover up for his sexual orientation of being gay. In fact he is not gay at all.

Phone records from Te’o’s cell phone indeed have records that they spent hours talking on the phone. In fact, they used to fall asleep on the phone.

According to AT&T’s phone records from Te’o phone, there have been 1,000 phone calls made and received between him and Kekua. The calls totaled 500 hours. The calls all had the same area code, 661,which is the area code of Lancaster, California and some of Los Angles.

Te’o also has voicemails that Kekua left on his phone. The voicemails were played on the Katie Couric’s show and the voicemail in fact, sounds like a woman’s voice. How could this be possible if Kekua was being portrayed by a man?

The voice behind the phone was Tino Tuiasosopo, Ronaiah’s female cousin. After watching Katie Couric’s interview with Te’o, Tino Tuiasosopo’s family identified it as her voice.

“Tino is the girl that Manti has been talking to all these months. There is no doubt whatsoever that it’s Tino,” said Tuiasosopo’s cousin, according to the New York Post.

According to the New York Daily, Milton Grimes, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s lawyer said, “This wasn’t a prank to make fun. It was establishing a communication with someone. It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”

“ When I reflect on the night I found out (Lennay was alive), I couldn’t figure out what was going on. So many ideas are going through your head of what this possibly could be. Is it real, is it fake, is this someone’s sick joke, is there blackmail at the end of this. Manti is coming to the end of his career, is someone going to solicit him later on? I had to sit there for a day to two and say are you sure,” said Brian Te’o.

This hoax may have caused Te’o to be the second runner up in the Heisman Trophy. This is a lesson that anyone can be catfished, no matter who they are.

  • Shantelle Stotts, Contributor