With details about the machinations of the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax initially in short supply after Deadspin broke the story, there were many theories circulating as to what really happend. Among them was the possibility that Te'o was gay and attempting to hide his sexuality with an elaborate ruse involving an online, long-distance girlfriend.
Addressing such speculation during her on-camera interview with the Heisman finalist, Katie Couric asked Te’o, “Are you gay?”
“No, far from it. Far from it,” Te’o said, drawing out his second usage of the word "far" for emphasis. His response and the expression on his face as he delivered it actually elicited laughter from the crowd in one of the stranger moments of the interview aired on Thursday.
Noticing the unusual reaction that he had to this question relative to others, Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk suggested that Te'o was more offended by being asked about his sexuality than being asked if he was naive enough to be taken in by such a hoax.
"The bad news is that Te’o seems to think that if you’re an aspiring professional football player, you’re better off being labeled naive and stupid than gay. The awful news is that he might be right."
With the interview largely retelling the version of events that Te'o had previously shared with Jeremy Schaap of ESPN and had been established by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Couric's direct question of Te'o's sexuality may have drawn more attention than any other moment of the program.
To some, the answer seemed to indicate that he was still hiding his sexuality while others saw his response as possible indication that he was homophobic.
Earlier on Thursday, a report in the New York Daily News indicated that the "Lennay Kekua" that Te'o claims to have spent hundreds of hours on the telephone with was actually Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the 22-year-old man identified as the mastermind of the hoax, impersonating a woman. Responding to this report, Cyd Zeigler Jr. of Outsports revisited the possibility that this hoax could have been an attempt to hide his sexual orientation.
Some have ripped anyone for posing the question, “Is Manti Te’o gay?” I posted it last week after hearing that very question from straight and gay people around the country. The more we find out about the story the more people are believing the answer is, “Yes.” It’s hard not to.
Will Te'o's response to Couric's question end speculation about his sexuality? Or does this theory still seem plausible? What do you think of his response?