By Chelsea J. Carter
(CNN) — The man who claims to have been behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax told talk show host Phil McGraw that he was in love with the Notre Dame linebacker.
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,” McGraw said on the “Today” show Wednesday, about Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
McGraw said he spent days with 22-year-old Tuiasosopo and his psychologist discussing what happened. The two-part interview is set to air Thursday and Friday on “The Dr. Phil Show.”
In the interview, Tuiasosopo says he wanted to put an end to the hoax before faking the death of the made-up girlfriend Lennay Kekua.
“I wanted to end it because after everything I had gone through I wanted to move on with my life. Me, Ronaiah, I had to just start living and let this go,” he says.
When asked whether Te’o was involved in the hoax, McGraw said “absolutely, unequivocally no.”
A love story unravels
It’s the latest revelation in what began as a story of one of the nation’s best college football players leading his team to victory hours after learning his girlfriend died of leukemia, a story later dismissed as a hoax after it was revealed Kekua did not exist.
Sports website Deadspin broke the story this month that the girlfriend that Te’o, this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up, had talked about and had claimed died in September of leukemia wasn’t real.
Te’o rose to national prominence leading Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season. As he and his team excelled, Te’o told interviewers in September and October that his grandmother and girlfriend, whom he described as a 22-year-old Stanford University student, had died within hours of each other.
“I miss ’em, but I know that I’ll see them again one day,” he said then.
An online relationship
In the weeks since news of the hoax broke, Te’o said he never met Kekua in person and that the relationship was carried out via e-mail and telephone.
Last week, Te’o told Katie Couric that Tuiasosopo called him the day the story broke to confess.
During that interview, Te’o doubted the voice he knew as Kekua belonged to that of a man.
Tuiasosopo has said he faked his voice to sound feminine. In the preview of the interview to air on “The Dr. Phil Show,” Tuiasosopo was repeatedly challenged by the talk show host to prove it.
“There are 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 Lennay’s life, in this case in my life,” Tuiasosopo said.
McGraw said he asked Tuiasosopo to define the nature of the relationship.
“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’m confused.'”
Tuiasosopo’ s state of mind
Psychotherapist Robi Ludwig said the behavior described by Tuiasosopo to McGraw is very possible.
“We see this with Internet dating. Sometimes people lie,” Ludwig said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront.”
“It’s a place where they can experiment and where they can impersonate the other sex.”
Ludwig said it is possible that Tuiasosopo “actually did have a crush on Manti Te’o and was confused about his sexuality.”
“And the reason why he impersonated this woman was to see what it would feel like to be intimate with Manti Te’o to be loved by Manti Te’o,” she said.
“Who would say this if it weren’t true? I don’t get the sense that he’s a sociopath. I get the sense that he’s confused.”
Photo Courtesy: Kevin Myers/CNN
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