Manti Te’o hoax: Woman in photos calls ruse ‘twisted, confusing’
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The Southern California woman whose photos were apparently used in an elaborate hoax involving Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o called the ruse ‘a very twisted and confusing scenario.’
Diane O’Meara, who works in marketing at STN Media group in Torrance, spoke to NBC’s ‘Today’ about the incident in a segment that aired Tuesday.
‘My name is not Lennay Kekua,’ O’Meara said. ‘My name’s Diane.’
O’Meara, 23, was not named in the Deadspin.com report that revealed the hoax last week. According to the report, a Palmdale man identified as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo allegedly was involved in creating a Twitter account for a ‘Lennay Kekua’ and connecting her with Te’o.
The Notre Dame player and Heisman Trophy runner-up spoke to the media repeatedly about his girlfriend and her supposed battle with cancer, a story that captivated football fans.
After more than a year of corresponding on social media and by telephone with someone he thought was Kekua, Te’o said he was told in September that the woman had died of leukemia. Three months later, the player got a call from a phone number he recognized as Kekua’s, with the voice on the other end telling him Kekua wasn’t dead.
On Dec. 26, Te’o told Notre Dame officials that he had learned his girlfriend did not exist, the university said. In an interview with ESPN, Te’o denied a role in the ruse.
‘I wasn’t faking it,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t part of this.’
O’Meara told ‘Today’ she had never heard of Te’o until news of the scandal broke.
‘I’ve never met Manti Te’o in my entire life,’ she said. ‘I’ve never spoken with him, I’ve never exchanged words, tweets [with him].’
O’Meara confirmed to ‘Today’ that she went to high school with Tuiasosopo, but said the two weren’t friends. She said he sent her a Facebook message in December, saying he had a cousin who was involved in a car accident who had seen her Facebook photos and thought she was pretty.
Tuiasosopo asked O’Meara if she would take a picture for her cousin, she said, and that photo was used in the hoax. O’Meara said other photos were taken from her Facebook account.
‘The past five years, he’s literally been stalking my Facebook and stealing my photos,’ she said of Tuiasosopo.
Tuiasosopo has not commented publicly about the allegations, but O’Meara said the two had spoken.
‘Ronny has called and not only confessed, but he has also apologized,’ she said. ‘But I don’t think there’s anything he could say to me that would fix this.’
A full interview with O’Meara will air live Wednesday, ‘Today’ producers said.
O’Meara’s former boss, Diane Merrick, told The Times O’Meara reached out to her by email last week and asked if she knew of an attorney who could help. Someone had stolen her identity, she said, but Merrick couldn’t help.
Merrick, who owns a clothing store on Beverly Boulevard, vehemently defended the employee she said worked for her for about two years until early 2012, calling O’Meara an ‘incredible person.’
“I would get on a stack of Bibles and vouch for her,” she said.
— Kate Mather and Matt Stevens