Nightly News   |  December 12, 2013

Mandela memorial interpreter speaks out

The man accused of being a sign language fraud at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, spoke publically for the first time about his performance, saying he suffered a breakdown on stage. He also said he has a history of violent behavior, prompting larger security concerns about the decision to hire him for the event. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>>> now to the latest twist in a story that, as we said at the top of the broadcast started as simply an embarrassment but is raising serious questions about security for president obama and the other world leaders who came to south africa for the mandela memorial. as we were making our way back home from there, the sign language interpreter who was called out as a fake revealed news about himself and what he claimed was a history of serious mental illness . ron allen has the latest tonight from pretoria.

>> reporter: today thamsanqa jantije went public. he claimed to be under medication for schizophrenia and said he suffered a break down on stage.

>> i started see it and there is a problem.

>> reporter: he said he has a history of violent behavior.

>> sometimes i will react violent on that place. sometimes i will see, like, things chase me.

>> reporter: stunning revelations by a man already accused of being a fraud.

>> it's frightening that an individual that maybe is having significant mental issues was allowed to stand next to the president and other dignitaries. it's amazing. and very frightening.

>> reporter: all this just part of larger security concerns at the mandela memorial. a senior administration official tells nbc news the secret service was concerned security was more disorganized and haphazard than expected with with a lasty -- hastily arranged tribute. the security detail was doubled. before time his motorcade was stuck in traffic. at the stadium, metal detectors and screening seemed nonexistent. lester holt mentioned it on the air.

>> it was strange. i was able to get into the stadium without any physical screening.

>> reporter: there were no incidents and the white house says secret service did a good job under difficult circumstances.

>> obviously they worked very hard on this trip which came about on short notice.

>> reporter: and that so-called interpreter, there have been complaints before.

>> when we complain, we feel that the south african government are deaf. spokeswoman acknowledged hiring jantije was mistake.

>> it's an embarrassment.

>> reporter: it could have been something much worse. ron allen , nbc news, pretoria.