Manti Te'o is putting on his best defense.
In an extensive interview with ABC News' Katie Couric, a portion of which aired on this morning's Good Morning America, Notre Dame's star linebacker admitted that he briefly lied about his so-called girlfriend after the public became aware that his claim that she had died of leukemia back in September turned out to be a hoax.
To recap, Te'o spent much of the fall talking about how his grandmother and girlfriend both died on Sept. 11, 2012, a story that generated plenty of weepy headlines in the lead-up to the National Championship Game. Problem was, an investigation by Deadspin.com last Wednesday revealed Manti's gal-pal, Lennay Kekua, never existed.
Notre Dame officials subsequently stood by Te'o, saying a probe they conducted showed the two had "exclusively an online relationship" and that he had been the victim of a "sad and very cruel deception." The school's athletic director went on to note that the footballer told him he received a call on Dec. 6 that Kekua was alive.
But Te'o raised eyebrows after it was discovered that despite knowing her death was a fabrication, he still talked about her passing to the press on four later occasions. The discrepancy prompted speculation that the athlete was involved in a con despite his denials and provided the main thrust of Couric's line of questioning.
"You stuck to the script. And you knew that something was amiss, Manti," noted the veteran journalist.
"Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12," replied Te'o, who insisted he wasn't fibbing up until December.
Maintaining his innocence, Manti then tried to set the record straight, noting that he only fumbled the proverbial media ball because he was as shocked as everybody else to learn Kekua was alive.
"Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going [to] be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?" asked the 21-year-old Heisman Trophy finalist.
According to Deadspin, as it happened, photos that surfaced of Kekua on her Twitter account were actually that of Diane O'Meara, a friend of Ronaiah Tuliasosopo, a close pal of Teo's. The NFL-bound player told ESPN last Friday that Tuiasosopo called him last week and 'fessed up to being the one responsible for the hoax.
O'Meara told NBC's Today show Tuesday that she never met Manti or spoke with him.
For his part, Te'o's agents put out a statement saying he was "the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke."
Also appearing with Te'o in the interview with Couric were his mother and father, Brian and Ottilia Te'o, who defend their son.
Excerpts of the sit-down will air on tonight's edition of World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer and Nightline while the full interview with Manti will air on Katie on Thursday.