The 22-year-old man who posed as Manti Te'o's online gilfriend "fell deeply, romantically in love" with the Notre Dame linebacker, Dr. Phil McGraw said after interviewing the alleged hoaxer.
After the lengthy interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, McGraw said he also believes that Te'o had no part in the hoax that made national headlines at the end of the team's undefeated season.
"Absolutely, unequivocally no," McGraw told NBC's Mike Taibbi in a segment on the "Today" show.
In a two-part interview that will air on the "Dr. Phil" show, Tuiasosopo said that he tried to end the ruse, but they kept getting back together. The two-year long masquerade was eventually brought to light by the blog Deadspin.com in a investigative story that detailed the timeline of their relationship.
"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, or in this case, my life,’’ he told McGraw in the interview, which will air on Thursday and Friday.
McGraw said Tuiasosopo fell victim to some life experiences that "damaged this young man."
“Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love,’’ McGraw said. “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 created a fake Twitter profile under the name Lennay Kekua using Facebook photos from a high school classmate to foster a romantic relationship with Te'o.
The death of Te'o's grandmother and Kekua's supposed battle with leukemia and subsequent death added to the inspiring narrative of a football star who led his team to the BCS championship in December.
Te'o told Katie Couric on her talk show last week that he did not play a part in the hoax.