NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dr. Phil McGraw says Manti Te'o was not involved in setting up the dead girlfriend hoax that became a sensation when it was exposed this month, and that the man who masterminded the scheme did so because he was "deeply, romantically" in love with the Notre Dame linebacker.
McGraw spoke on the "Today" show Wednesday, previewing an interview he did with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a California man who set up the fake identity of Lennay Kekua.
"Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love," McGraw said of Tuiasosopo. "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 am confused.'"
Tuiasosopo's interview with McGraw will air in two parts on the "Dr. Phil Show" starting Thursday.
Tuiasosopo said he was the voice behind the phone calls with Te'o.
"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 in one of two clips aired Wednesday.
Te'o said he thought of Kekua as his girlfriend, though the two had only talked on the phone and exchanged electronic messages, and the story of how Te'o learned Kekua "died" on the same day in September as his grandmother because a major story during the football season.
"Ronaiah had a number of life experiences that damaged this young man in some very serious ways," McGraw said.
McGraw said "absolutely, unequivocally" Te'o had no role in creating the hoax.
Katie Couric, whose interview with Te'o was broadcast last week, told WFAN radio she believed the linebacker's story.
Have you heard enough? Are you convinced Te'o was catfished? Sound off in the comments...
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