Manti may not have spoken out yet about the girlfriend hoax, but one of his extended family members jumped at the chance. Te’o’s uncle, Alema Te’o, gave an interview with 1280 The Zone, a radio station in Salt Lake City.
Alema discusses the process of learning about the incident and talking with Manti’s parents. He said that the family is exceptionally disappointed, not in Te’o but instead about the level of embarrassment and grief that this situation is causing.
The most interesting part of the interview is that Alema called out Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. He believes that Tuiasosopo created the entire hoax and even went as far as to hire a girl to call herself Lennay and meet Manti in person.
Alema Te’o met Ronaiah Tuiasosopo for the first time in Los Angeles for Notre Dame’s game against USC. He said immediately after meeting Tuiasosopo for the first time that he sensed some major “red flags.” Apparently, Tuiasosopo cited having done several jobs at Troy Polamalu’s football camp that were, in fact, the jobs of Alema himself. Alema vehemently denies the fact that Tuiasosopo had any involvement in the planning of the camp.
Along with several other accounts of Ronaiah’s apparent deceit, including using Ronaiah’s own sister as a pawn, and calling him a “shady character”, Alema had this to say when asked if Manti would be capable of participating in a hoax like this:
“Oh absolutely not, no doubt in my mind, you know. He was not involved in this willingly or knowingly.”
Alema stressed that he believes Ronaiah was trying to take advantage of the Te’os all along. According to Alema, Ronaiah’s “big deal was raising money,” and he believes Ronaiah just wanted future connections to help him get money. Alema said this of Tuiasosopo:
“I know a liar when I’m around one, and he was one. […] He concocted the whole thing. He misrepresented whatever program he was trying to get across to Manti. He lied every step of the way. I don’t feel like it’s beyond him to hire somebody or to bring somebody in to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal. […] This guy was wrong from the get go.”
If you want to listen to the whole interview, check it out on 1280 The Zone’s website.