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Manti Te'o & Ronaiah Tuiasosopo Most Awkward Hug In the Universe

1/24/2013 6:00 AM PST

TMZ has obtained footage showing Manti Te'o hugging Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- the man who allegedly masterminded the fake girlfriend hoax on the Notre Dame football star -- and it's pretty obvious from the tape ... Ronaiah wanted to hug Manti A LOT more than Manti wanted to hug him.

The video was shot in L.A. back in November on the same night Notre Dame played USC -- before the hoax was exposed -- and it offers a pretty fascinating glimpse into Manti and Ronaiah's relationship before this whole thing blew up.

In the footage, you can see the two were having a conversation before they each go in for a hug at the same time. But when Manti gives Ronaiah the "it's time to let go" pat on the back, Ronny continues to hold the squeeze.

Manti recently told ESPN ... he knew of Ronaiah during the hoax because his imaginary GF "Lennay Kekua" told him Ronaiah was her "favorite cousin." Manti said he had never seen Ronaiah in person before the USC game.

FYI -- The USC vs. ND game was the same day Ronaiah allegedly duped a Notre Dame superfan into meeting Lennay's fake sister U'ilani at the Tommy Trojan statue near the stadium. When the fan arrived, U'ilani wasn't there ... but Ronaiah sure was.  

Manti says Ronaiah reached out to him in the wake of the scandal to confess to the hoax ... and apologized.

But really ... the hug says it all.

Manti Te'o I Brought My Imaginary GF To Football Practice

1/23/2013 3:10 PM PST

Here's a shot of Manti Te'o with his arm around his girlfriend ... the first photo of the happy couple ever since news broke the woman didn't exist.

Manti was spotted running football drills today at a private training facility in Florida.

Before the hoax, Manti was a projected first round draft pick, but now NFL experts are saying Manti's draft stock may have taken a hit in the wake of the scandal.

If Manti crushes it at the NFL combine next month, he might improve his chances of landing a spot in the top ten.

Side note: Lennay's hotter than we expected.

Manti Te'o to Katie Couric I Lied But You'd Do the Same!

1/23/2013 6:15 AM PST

ANYONE in Manti Te'o's situation would have done the same thing he did -- and would lie to the media to protect their reputation after being hoaxed ... at least that's what Manti said to Katie Couric.

ABC is finally releasing clips of the big sit-down interview he did for Katie's new talk show -- in which the Notre Dame football star says he perpetuated the lie after he found out he was duped because he didn't know how else to act.

He then asks Katie ... "What would you do?" ... as if there was no other option.

On a related note, ABC is rolling out the interview in bits and pieces ... making it seem as if the interview was a big get for ABC News -- but the fact of the matter is the Manti booking was a score for Katie's talk show ... and a good one at that.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo House Call From Celebrity Shrink

1/22/2013 6:33 AM PST

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo got a visit from a world famous psychiatrist last night ... a guy who's worked with everyone from Michael Jackson to Paris Hilton ... TMZ has learned.

The shrink to the stars is Dr. Charles Sophy -- a high-ranking official with the Los Angeles Dept. of Children and Family Services.

Sophy was involved in the Michael Jackson child molestation case, the Paris Hilton jail saga (when she was suffering from panic attacks) and counseled Taylor Armstrong during her split with her husband.

But last night, Sophy appeared at the Tuiasosopo family home in Palmdale, CA ... and though he wouldn't say why he was there, it's obvious his visit is connected to the drama surrounding the Manti Te'o hoax.

When we asked Dr. Sophy if his visit was in connection to a TV show -- the doc told us, "You know I can't discuss anything."

As for Ronaiah, he has yet to speak to the media about the hoax -- but Manti says he's already called him privately and confessed to everything.

Matthew Hiltzik The Link Between Manti Te'o and Katie Couric

1/21/2013 7:05 AM PST

How, you ask, did Katie Couric -- who now hosts a daytime syndicated talk show targeted at women -- snag the first on-camera interview with Manti Te'o?  The answer is Matthew Hiltzik.

Hiltzik is a high-powered publicist who specializes in crisis management.  He reps both Katie and Manti, but his client roster is chock-full of big celebs, including Alec Baldwin, Glenn Beck, MLB superstar Ryan Braun, Internet mogul Sean Parker, Univision's Raul De Molina, and some Canadian named Justin Bieber.

Sources tell us ... Hiltzik -- who likes working on the down-low -- put the deal together and sold it as a package -- Katie's interview will play an entire hour on her show, but parts will also be featured on Good Morning America, Nightline and World News Tonight.

It's hard to argue against the fact that Katie's one of the best interviewers on TV, but fact is ... It ain't always about what you know ... it's about who you know.

Manti Te'o Giving First On-Camera Interview to Katie Couric

1/20/2013 2:59 PM PST
Breaking News
Manti Te'o will finally go on camera to talk about the recent girlfriend hoax controversy ... and Katie Couric is the lucky broadcaster to score the interview.

Te'o spoke to ESPN's Jeremy Schaap on Friday, but not on camera. During that interview, Te'o admitted he handled the Lennay Kekua situation poorly ... but maintained he was in no way involved with the hoax.

The Notre Dame linebacker told Schaap he only realized for sure this past week that he was being duped.

According to ABC News, Couric will sit down with Te'o and his parents, Brian and Ottilia Te'o. The interview will air this Thursday.

Manti Te'o Scandal RONAIAH SURFACES!!

1/20/2013 9:30 AM PST

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo
-- the man who allegedly spearheaded the hoax on Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o -- has finally come out of hiding ... surfacing at his family home in Palmdale, CA on Saturday evening ... TMZ has learned. 

Ronaiah was wearing a hoodie and tried to hide his face. He also didn't utter a single word when asked about his role in the hoax. 

Just 24 hours before Ronaiah appeared in public, Manti had told ESPN ... Ronaiah had reached out to him -- confessed to the prank -- and apologized.

According to Manti, Ronaiah was the person who created "Lennay Kekua" -- who Manti believed was a real person ... and "dated" ... even though they never met in person.

Of course, the whole thing was a hoax -- Lennay never really lived ... or died from cancer on September 11.

Manti claims he and Ronaiah were simply acquaintances -- and insists he was only a victim in the hoax and not a co-conspirator.

Manti Te'o Hockey Team Pokes Fun at Girlfriend Hoax

1/20/2013 9:15 AM PST
Manti Te'o has been the butt of jokes since the fake-dead-girlfriend hoax was revealed this week ... but now even an NHL team is getting in on the act.

The Dallas Stars flashed an empty seat on the big screen during their opening night game on Saturday, with the caption, "Manti Te'o's girlfriend -- Welcome to the game!"

The team even tweeted about it, saying, "Our cameras at AAC are sharp! They just caught Manti Te'o's girlfriend in section 125 on the jumbotron!"


Manti Te'o SPEAKS I Knew It Was Crazy ... But I'm Innocent

1/19/2013 9:33 AM PST
Breaking News

Manti Te'o
has broken his silence ... admitting he knew having a relationship with a "girlfriend" solely online was "crazy," insisting he was a victim, and revealing that the culprit has now apologized.
Manti gave an audio interview to ESPN -- the photo was taken in the middle of the chat -- in which he acknowledges Ronaiah Tuiasosopo tweeted him a full confession two days ago. You gotta love it ... even the confession was online. ESPN says it was followed up by a phone call.

Manti says, "I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this."

Manti says he now knows -- presumably from Tuiasosopo -- "Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing." He says he doesn't know the identity of the second guy or the girl. He adds he didn't know for sure until Wednesday that it was all a hoax, when Tuiasosopo admitted it to him.

Manti explained why he lied to his dad and others, when he said or intimated he had seen the fictitious Lennay Kekua in the flesh. "I knew that -- I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone people find out that this gir who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well ... So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away so people wouldn't think I was some crazy dude."

As for one of the big questions -- why didn't he at least Skype -- he says he tried to speak with Lennay through Skype or FaceTime several times, but the person on the other end was in a "black box" and couldn't be seen. He says he also tried meeting her a few times in L.A. and Hawaii, but she kept canceling. 

And this is a little weird ... Manti says Lennay once asked him for his checking account number so she could send him money. He did not provide it. Still, no suspicion.

Manti says the fictitious relationship was not a full four years -- they would take breaks, but it got intense after she said her father had died.

He says things got crazy after Lennay's fake car accident when she was in the hospital, and he could only hear her breathing over the phone -- "I slept on the phone with her every night ...the only thing that could help her sleep was if I was on the phone." 

As for why he didn't visit her in the hospital, he says, "It never really crossed my mind.  I don't know. I was in school."

As for why he didn't attend her "funeral," he says, "Her mom told them [Lennay's family] they did not want me to come," adding, "I didn't want that to be the first time that I saw her was laying in a coffin."

Manti says on December 6 -- three months after Lennay had supposedly died --  a woman called from the number Lennay had used, saying, "Manti, it's me." He says that was the first time it was apparent to him -- he had been scammed. 

Manti says he doesn't hold a grudge -- "I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns.  I think embarrassment is big enough."

Manti Te'o You Be the Judge

1/19/2013 5:05 AM PST

Manti Te'o
says he's the victim in an outrageous catfishing hoax -- or is he? We gotta ask ...


Manti Te'o I Can Never Trust People Again

1/19/2013 4:30 AM PST
Manti Te'o is telling close friends he was so badly scarred by the Internet hoax, he doesn't think he can ever trust people again ... TMZ has learned.

Manti is telling his friends he was not only victimized by the person behind the phantom GF, he lost his real girlfriend as a result of the mess.

TMZ broke the story ... Manti started dating 21-year-old Alexandra del Pilar in early November and really liked her.  But when Manti realized on December 6 he'd been played -- and he believes by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- he became a different person. 

Our sources say Manti became "freaked out, angry, upset and withdrawn," and Alexandra couldn't handle it.  And we're told ... Alexandra was dealing with a lot, because Manti let her in on his secret that he had been scammed.

We're told Alexandra pulled the plug on the relationship just before the story broke wide.  Manti harbors no hard feelings and is sorry the relationship crumbled.

As for the future, we're told Manti's trust in people has been shattered and -- at least for now -- he doesn't think that trust will come back.

Maybe a little distrust is a good thing.

Lance vs. Manti Who'd You Rather?

1/18/2013 3:15 PM PST

Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o ... two men dominating the sports headlines for all the wrong reasons. One for cheating ... and one for dating a dead person who never really existed.

Question is ...

More Who'd You Rather?

Manti Te'o Rebounded w/ ACTUAL Girl After Fake GF 'Died'

1/18/2013 1:30 PM PST

11:49 AM PT -- New photos have surfaced showing Manti and Alexandra sitting on Santa's lap together sometime around Christmas. 

Alex also posted a photo on November 16, in which she thanked Manti for giving her a couple of leis, which she hung in her car.

The dates are consistent with the story Manti is telling friends.

Manti Te'o quietly began dating an actual living, breathing female human being ... shortly after he learned "Lennay Kekua" had died from cancer ... and the rebound chick is HOT ... TMZ has learned.

Sources close to Manti tell us ... the Notre Dame star met Alexandra del Pilar the weekend of November 10 -- when Notre Dame played Boston College.

Alexandra, 21, is a student at St. Mary's College in Indiana -- which is close to Notre Dame.

We're told Alexandra and Manti dated for nearly 2 months, but broke up recently.  

There are rumors swirling that Manti created a fictitious GF to take the pressure off him from teammates and others who felt he should be dating, but his relationship with a real woman calls those rumors into doubt.

(Tip of the hat to Busted Coverage for leading us to the most recent pic)
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