Dr. Phil: Te'o was victim of girlfriend hoax

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Dr. Phil McGraw says

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who masterminded the dead girlfriend hoax involving

Manti

Te'o, told him the Notre Dame linebacker was not involved in the

scheme and that he ended up falling "deeply, romantically"

in love with the football player.

McGraw spoke on the "Today" show Wednesday,

previewing an interview he did with Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old California

man who

created the fictional woman Te'o knew as Lennay Kekua.

Tuiasosopo's interview with McGraw will air in two parts on the "Dr.

Phil Show" starting Thursday.

Since the hoax was revealed earlier this

month, Te'o has said the relationship with Kekua started online and

eventually became

serious, even though the two only talked on the phone and

exchanged electronic messages, never meeting in person. Te'o said

he was told of Kekua's "death" from leukemia just hours after his

grandmother died in September.

McGraw said Tuiasosopo told him the voice of Kekua was his. Tuiasosopo and Te'o have each said that while the Kekua relationship

went on for several years, there were times when they weren't in contact.

"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, in this case in my

life," Tuiasosopo said.

Tuiasosopo said he wanted to end the relationship between Kekua and Te'o before he had to fake Kekua's death.

"I wanted to end it because everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life and

I had to get me, Ronaiah, I had to start just living and let this go," Tuiasosopo said.

Te'o's publicist, Matthew Hiltzik, declined comment on behalf of Te'o and his family.

When the ruse was reported by Deadspin.com

on Jan. 16, the report raised the questions about whether Te'o was

involved. The

story about how he played inspirationally after the deaths of his

girlfriend and grandmother led to an outpouring of support

from Notre Dame fans. It became the backdrop to the Fighting

Irish's undefeated regular season and run to the BCS championship,

where they lost to Alabama.

Te'o won seven national awards for his play and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He has denied any involvement from the

beginning, and Notre Dame said an investigation of the player's claims backed up his story.

"The feelings, the pain, the sorrow, that was all real," Te'o told Katie Couric in an interview last week.

McGraw says "absolutely, unequivocally" Te'o had no role in creating the hoax.

Te'o said he first learned that something was amiss when Keuka called him on Dec. 6, and told him she had faked her death.

He told his parents about what had happened

while home for Christmas break and called Notre Dame coaches on Dec. 26

to let

them know. Notre Dame officials said that they interviewed Te'o

and retained Stroz Friedberg, a New York computer forensics

firm, to investigate the case. They learned on Jan. 3 that there

were no records indicating Lennay Kekua existed.

McGraw said he spent hours with Tuiasosopo and his parents, saying he had a number of life experiences that "damaged this

young man in some very serious ways."

McGraw said Tuiasosopo had feelings for Te'o.

"Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love," McGraw said.

McGraw said he asked Tuiasosopo if he is gay.

"He said, 'Well, when you put it that way, yes.' Then he caught himself and said, 'I am confused,'" McGraw said.

Te'o also was asked by Couric if he is gay. Te'o said "no" with a laugh. "Far from it. Faaaar from that," he said.

Te'o said in the interview with Couric that

Tuiasosopo tweeted him a direct message on Jan. 16, saying he had been

behind

the hoax. The message read: "I completely accept the consequences

to the pain I've caused & it's important that you know the

truth before anyone else."

Te'o told Couric that Tuiasosopo later called him and explained what he did.

"He didn't say why. He just explained that he just wanted to help people and that was his way of helping people. Of being

someone that he wasn't and trying to connect with somebody on a different level to help them out," Te'o said.

Te'o said he didn't say much to Tuiasosopo.

"I just found that everything that I believed to be my reality wasn't my reality at all," Te'o said.