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Manti Te'o to have first on-camera interview with Katie Couric

By Greg Botelho and Paul Vercammen, CNN
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon January 21, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Katie Couric says she'll interview Manti T'eo and his parents for her talk show
  • The interview -- Te'o's first on camera in recent days -- will air Thursday, she says
  • Te'o has said he was duped in the creation of a girlfriend he met online but wasn't real
  • Uncle defends nephew accused in the hoax, saying, "It takes two to tango"

(CNN) -- Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker at the center of an online hoax involving his non-existent girlfriend, will sit down for his first on-camera interview this week with Katie Couric, the talk show host said Sunday.

Couric announced on her Twitter account that Te'o and his parents would take part in the interview airing Thursday on the "Katie" show. No other details were given.

Sports website Deadspin broke the story Wednesday that the girlfriend that Te'o, this year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, had talked about and had claimed died in September of leukemia wasn't real. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told reporters later that day Te'o was the victim, having been fooled into believing that a woman he met on the Internet, but never in person, was his girlfriend.

After issuing a brief statement Wednesday, Te'o sat down Friday with ESPN for an off-camera interview.

There, one of the best defenders in college football this season defended himself against allegations that he was somehow involved in the online scheme.

The sports world and the Internet are abuzz as Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o says he was the victim of a "sick joke" that resulted in the creation of an inspirational story that had him overcoming the death of an online girlfriend at the same time he lost his grandmother. Here, Te'o leaves the field after a 42-14 loss against Alabama in the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game on Monday, January 7, in Miami Gardens, Florida. See more photos of Te'o: The sports world and the Internet are abuzz as Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o says he was the victim of a "sick joke" that resulted in the creation of an inspirational story that had him overcoming the death of an online girlfriend at the same time he lost his grandmother. Here, Te'o leaves the field after a 42-14 loss against Alabama in the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game on Monday, January 7, in Miami Gardens, Florida. See more photos of Te'o:
Notre Dame star Manti Te'o
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"I wasn't faking it," Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap. "I wasn't part of this."

Manti Te'o denies he was part of girlfriend hoax

Thursday's interview with Couric would be the first time Te'o has spoken on camera about the hoax. His parents, Brian and Ottilia Te'o, who also haven't spoken out since the story broke, will also answer questions, according to Couric.

Te'o rose to national prominence leading Notre Dame's Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season. As he and his team excelled, Te'o told interviewers in September and October that his grandmother and girlfriend, whom he described as a 22-year-old Stanford University student, had died within hours of each other.

"I miss 'em, but I know that I'll see them again one day," he said then.

Te'o told Schaap that the hoax was created by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

He said Tuiasosopo contacted him via Twitter the day the story broke, explaining he'd created the hoax and apologizing, according to Schaap. CNN has not seen the tweets Te'o allegedly received from Tuiasosopo.

"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o said, according to ESPN.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo hasn't spoken publicly, nor had members of his family, in the past week.

On Sunday, though, CNN asked Peter Navy Tuiasosopo about Te'o blaming his nephew, Ronaiah.

"It definitely takes two to tango," the uncle said. "This is not just a matter of blaming it all on Ronaiah."

Peter Navy Tuiasosopo made his remarks after a service at Oasis Christian Church of Antelope Valley in Lancaster, California, near the family's Palmdale home about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

There, about 50 people attended an early afternoon service led by Ronaiah's father, the Rev. Titus Tuiasosopo.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was not among them.

The almost two-hour service was filled with singing, clapping, hugging and a few veiled references to the controversy.

The Rev. Titus Tuiasosopo welcomed members of the media, without cameras, and quipped, "I've been practicing to say 'no comment' in 20 languages."

The pastor made no reference to his son specifically, or the alleged girlfriend hoax, during the service.

At the conclusion of the service, he said, fighting back tears, "I want to thank all of my church family, my cousins, those who are here: I love you."

Afterward, Peter Navy Tuiasosopo told CNN that Ronaiah "is holding up well."

"I know he doesn't feel his best, but he definitely feels like ... this family is there for him," said Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, who is an actor. "And if not for this young man and his strength and family with God, he would have done something stupid."

CNN's Paul Vercammen reported from southern California, and CNN's Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta.

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