Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Jan 2013

Deadspin Reports Manti Te'o Dead Girlfriend Story Is a Hoax

This story is nothing short of astonishing. You may have heard earlier in the year about the terrible burden that Manti Te'o had to bear this season, playing even after both his grandmother Annette Santiago and his girlfriend Lennay Marie Kekua died in September. Well, Te'o's grandmother did die in September. But Deadspin has done extensive research and has found no evidence that there ever was any such person named Lennay Marie Kekua. There is no obituary, no report of an auto accident, no mention in the Stanford student newspaper where she was supposed to be a student. Nobody with that name was ever enrolled at Stanford, and there's no record of her birth in any newspaper. This story is mind-blowing. I have a feeling I know what we're all going to be talking about at the combine this year. Cam Newton saying he wanted to be an "entertainer" is nothing compared to this.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 16 Jan 2013

122 comments, Last at 21 Jan 2013, 9:48am by erniecohen


by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:21pm

Wacky story if giy made it up.

Would not downgrade him in drfat for being storyteller or liar butt would do extra long intervjrew with him. Want to see if can chalk this one up to stupid and horrible college prnak or if this guy have more probelsm and maybe needd professionla help

by erniecohen :: Mon, 01/21/2013 - 9:48am

I think I would test how many times in a row he falls for "hey, your shoe is untied".

by Sergio :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:27pm

A liar is a liar is a liar.

-- Go Phins!

by RickD :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:29pm

This is a really weird story.

Prediction: Te'o blames the woman.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:25pm

Which woman? The dead woman who never existed? His mother? The reporter?

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:27pm

Right. The woman.

by Puddin Patterson (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:30pm

sports is entertainment. never understood the outrage at Newton.

by Guido Merkens :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:42pm

It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out. It seems like Te'o may have initially been the victim of a hoax, but then took it and ran with it.

Regardless of how this all came to be, I think it's safe to say that he went way too far in drawing attention to himself - both for claiming her as his girlfriend and for playing while "grieving her" - given that they had never met.

by deep64blue :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:37pm

Read to me like he was in on it from the start.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 10:13am


He had a story about how he met her at a stanford game, and she came to visit him in hawaii, etc.

He was in on it.

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:34pm

Deadspin got in contact with the person whose picture that is and reports that she has never met him. I could see how it would be plausible for someone to introduce him to a woman who then fed him a big line of BS, but if he was legitimately convinced that he had a longstanding romance with a person he had never met then, as RJ alludes to, he may be the victim of something a lot more serious than a hoax.

by Sergio :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:48pm

According to the article, his parents were in on the deceit. His father is quoted as saying that Manti visited them and brought her along.

Weird wild stuff indeed, Rick.

ETA: Apparently I read wrong, his father is later quoted as saying they never did meet her. However it's also said he congratulates her "over the phone"?

-- Go Phins!

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:32pm

As crazy as this story is, I'm having a tough time believing the entire family signed up to perpetuate the hoax. But the alternative to that is that Manti was lying through his teeth to them for a very long time, including exploiting the family tragedy of his grandmother's real death so he could set up this fake death. Hard to believe anybody would dump that on their parents at a time of loss like that. What a scumbag.

by Theo :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:47pm

He's mormon?

It will probably come down to this:
"It's a hoax"
"no it isn't"
"yes it was"
"no it wasn't"


by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:12pm


by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:29pm

They may need Mitt Romney to fix the mess.

by bubqr :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:54pm

Mind = blown

by tunesmith :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:09pm

Maybe his grandmother *was* his girlfriend?

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:49pm

That's quite enough outta you Sam Bradford.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:26pm

+ a number larger than I can type

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 5:58am

I'm sure this is quite funny, but I don't it. Can you explain?

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 5:58am

The key word missing there was of course "get". "I don't get it."

by Insancipitory :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 7:01am

It's an allusion to a Sam Bradford caricature from ProFootballMock's QBs on Facebook feature. After the Rams tied the 49ers, Sam Bradford remarked that "a tie is like kissing your sister." So, thereafter, once a week, when an opportunity for comparison presents itself, Bradford's contribution to the QB roundtable is a description of the most deviant, incestious act a group of guys busting their ass to scrape together a mildly geocities, NFL-centric comedy website can come up with. (So extreme by somethingawful's standards)

Before this guilty secret reflects too poorly on me, I only read it for Russell Wilson; blessed be his name, amen.

by Ryan D. :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:38am

These are the funniest sketches on the internet. I'm sad that we only have a few left until September. I think my favorite was the one where they all tortured Michael Vick over a bad game.

by Podge (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 7:15am

Oh, ok. I read the first couple of them, but after that found that they were already getting a bit boring, as the main source of humour in them seemed to have become "swearing is funny". I've just read the divisional one, and I stand by that (although there are a couple of decent lines).

I've just been on there website and am outraged that the feature is listed as "NFL QB's on Facebook".

I'm glad that my initial guess was right though - it was a funny joke, I just didn't get it.

by Mike B. In Va :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:04am

Glad to see I'm not the only one that reads that.

by Dean :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 3:24pm

Profootballmock has been, to me, the single best thing to come out of the 2012 season. I only hope they continue to be as gut bustingly funny in the future.

What makes the Bradford character so interesting to me is that it's the one of them all that bears the least plausible likeness to the players actual public persona. It's not a stretch to see Peyton or Brady as cocky behind closed doors. It's damn sure no stretch to see big ben as a knuckle dragging moron. Etc. Part of what makes the thing funny is that it's so darned plausible. Except Bradford. His public persona is as mild mannered, milquetoast and flat-out boring as, well, the city of St. Louis. Maybe he's a dirtbag in real life, but if so he really hides it well. It almost doesn't make sense within the confines of the rest of the skit - yet it's still hysterical.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:18pm

great. some joker will probably post a story on "Lenny" and she's a he or a fembot.

though, the Combine interviews will get VERY interesting.

by fogarty :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:37pm

This story needs to be updated (the article on Deadspin already has been updated). Apparently, both Notre Dame and Manti himself have released statements claiming that an impostor calling herself Lennay Marie Kekua had gotten to know Manti very well and then developed an intimate online relationship with him. It seems that that person's accomplices then led him to believe that she had died of cancer. This is absolutely crazy.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:41pm

Then why the wierd details in the story? ND and Teo's new version doesn't make any sense.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:08pm

This has become a really common ploy that comes into use in online circles over the past decade or so. I can remember a point several years ago when some random guy with an email account and a blog had convinced a bunch of prominent music writers that he was the punk/metal drummer Chuck Biscuits (formerly of Black Flag, DOA, Danzig, and Social Distortion, among others), that his health had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer talk, and that he was close to death. The hoax was only revealed after the impostor faked his death, and the death of "Chuck Biscuits" was widely reported on music-related websites. At which point, the real Chuck Biscuits caught wind of the story and started making phone calls to different publications going, "Hey wait, I'm still alive!" Turned out he was in fine health, too.

So yeah, this kind of thing doesn't seem all that weird to me at this point. Makes Te'o look amazingly naive, though.

by Theo :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:28pm

With the twist, that THERE IS NO Lennay Marie Kekua.

So it either is one big prank-gone-'wrong' where Te'o thought he had a girfriend... and Manti and his family just fabricated a bunch of bull to keep the story straight/credible.

Or Manti was in it from the start.
Now, Manti wont admit that - so he'll just say he was pranked/hoaxed.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:32pm

Best of luck to him trying to sell that. What would the objective be for a girl to lead him to believe she'd died? It obviously wasn't some plot to discredit him during the season which is the only thing that would make any sense at all. Plus, it would have been a huge pain to keep the charade going. 8 hour phone calls where he was listening to her sleep?

The Deadspin article includes published quotes from his father talking about how she'd visited them in Hawaii on multiple occasions. It has quotes from Teo talking about his dealings with her brother and other family members. He said he skipped the funeral because she'd made him promise to never miss a game...okay, but none of his family went to her funeral? They had no common friends? And the picture that was being published of her...He never mentioned to the press that wasn't really her? Or is he claiming that is the girl who put on the hoax?

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 10:18am

The Deadspin article says the twitter account was being used by his cousin. There was no girl.

Either he was in on it, or his cousin just got him good.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:52pm

Well, if you believe Te'o there was a girl because he supposedly talked to her on the phone, including all-night calls where he listened to her sleeping. And supposedly there were multiple other people playing the parts of her brother and others. None of this sounds like a cousin playing a prank, but more like a full-time job to keep the hoax going, all with no obvious gain. (The only person who benefited from the deal was Te'o with the added publicity.)

But the problem is that Te'o also said they'd met face-to-face, but now is saying that didn't happen. And once you accept he lied about at least some of it, it becomes hard not to think he probably lied about all of it.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 2:22pm

"more like a full-time job to keep the hoax going"

That's the strangest thing to me. If Te'o is to be believed, someone (or multiple someones) put A LOT of effort into this. This went on for a long time. For what purpose? It's not money, because they killed off the character just as Te'o was on the verge of hitting it big.

I had been giving him the benefit of the doubt, but the more I think about it, it just doesn't make any sense.

by apbadogs :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:53am

Hmmm, star linebacker at huge university somehow feels the need to be "intimate" with an online non-person. Dude couldn't meet any girls on campus?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 4:28pm

There aren't many other Hawaiians in South Bend, IN.

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:37pm

Probably even fewer Hawaiian Mormons.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:44pm

Hawaiian morons probably more of thdm

by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:55pm

I know I might not be the most attentive boyfriend, but how hard is it to keep track of your girlfriend if she was in a car accident? And how often would you see each other if you've had relationship for a few years.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:42pm

And somebody with the fame of a Manti Te'o didn't have any other friends at or around Stanford who he would have had checking in on her as she fought for her life through not just a car accident but then terminal cancer? Her supposed funeral comes along and nobody associated with him goes? He never gets word back from the florist they couldn't deliver the flowers because they couldn't find the funeral home? None of that stuff makes any sense unless he was in on it.

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:07am

I dunno. What if he's really, really stupid?

by Levente from Hungary :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:57am

Then he probably does not have place on an NFL team. If he is so gullible, he will be tricked to hell by the offense / can't even learn his assignments.
Either way he seems done.

by opticallog :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:00pm

If the girlfriend was a hoax perpetrated on Manti, then his dad was in on it:

"They started out as just friends," Brian Te'o said. "Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple.

"And we came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law. Sadly, it won't happen now."

About the time Kekua and Manti became a couple, she was injured in an auto accident. There were complications during her recovery. And it was also during her recovery that it was discovered Kekua had leukemia.

"That was just in June," Brian Te'o said. "I remember Manti telling me later she was going to have a bone marrow transplant and, sure enough, that's exactly what happened. From all I knew, she was doing really, really well."

Kekua, who eventually graduated from Stanford, was, in fact, doing so well that she was released from the hospital on Sept. 10. And Brian Te'o was among those congratulating her via telephone.


by RickD :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:31pm

The ND rep just said that Te'o never met her.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:53pm

Before ND embraces Te-o too completely on that, they might want to read the Deadspin article because there are numerous stories of him saying he had met her. Their first meeting was directly following the ND-Stanford game. His father talks about her making a few trips to Hawaii while Manti was home.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:09pm


by Rikki (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:11pm

Hmm... my daily Seinfeld episode tonight shall be The Suzie

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:41pm

Strange story. At the heart of it is somebody (Te'o or someone else) perpetrating a deception for no reason other than that they enjoy tricking people, since I can't make out that anyone stood to gain from this.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:51pm

I'm guessing, of course I'm not gay, I'm very committed to my Canadian girl friend, you wouldn't know her; she'd visit but the car accident gave her cancer.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:54pm

Huh. That actually makes a lot of sense.

by tunesmith :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:00pm

If that's true I just feel really bad for him.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:06pm

It all worked out in The Importance of Being Earnest

by JIPanick :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:13pm

Then why kill her off?

That may be how this started, but it ain't the whole story. Not by a long shot.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:32pm

"...[S]he was *found out*. The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live - that is what I mean - so Bunbury died."

They didn't have the need to do research for end of season human interest stories or NFL draft backgrounds in Victorian England.

ed: Just to reiterate this is all idle speculation on my part. Because it's either this or watch news. Which is all the same, and always sucks.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:35pm

If the fraud was Te'o' creation, then as he became more and more famous, it became necessary to explain why this mystery woman was never around. I guess it would be simpler to break up with a fictional girlfriend, though.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:53pm

Yeah, that's the thing. Writing her out somehow makes sense, but why do it in the most attention-grabbing way possible if you are trying to wind down without embarrassing yourself?

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:19am

Having a hot girlfriend going to school a thousand miles away wasn't newsworthy; there needed to be tragedy. So, first there's a car wreck, then she gets cancer. Maybe the cancer part gets thrown in because things were going just a little too well and it was getting harder to keep the story going without having it fall apart.

But having her die within days of his grandmother's really dying? That's cold. Hard to imagine his family already grieving over the grandmother when he hits them with the story of this girl who meant so much to him dying in the prime of life.

There's also an alternate theory floating around that the family was actually the hoax's primary target, rather than it being purely to help his Heisman campaign.

by daz :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:20am

He could then use his grief as a reason for why he doesn't date (women)?

Assuming of course that this whole story was an elaborate beard

by RickD :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:45pm

The Importance of Being Earnest has been mentioned. Another story along these lines is The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin, which apparently was based on a true story. It was made into a movie with Robin Williams as a disc jockey who starts having phone calls with a kid who claims to be very ill. But after a while, he starts to suspect that the kid isn't real, and that it's just his mother (played by Toni Collette) talking on the phone and disguising her voice.

Apparently the film was based on a real-life experience that Armistead Maupin had at some point, where somebody had created a fictional identity and tried to convince him of this person's existence. This is a variation of an elaborate mental illness - Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 10:20pm

Sending our love down a well . . .

by Bill Walsh's Holy Ghost (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:23pm

Quiet Marge, he's one of our best diggers.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:02pm

I don't follow college football so this is the first I'd heard of any of this, but how is it possible that all these journalists were reporting on this without ever checking up on things? I'm not even saying they should have been skeptical. I just don't see how they could have felt they were adequately doing their jobs discussing this without talking to her or her family. This says a lot about how journalists, especially sports journalists, operate.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:10pm

That's the aspect of this story that really confuses me. For months, all of the sports journalists uncritically passed on the story that Te'o had a girlfriend who had died of leukemia. Lots of people did this. And none of them did even the tiniest background check of this story until Deadspin did?

by vcs (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:32am

It will be interesting to see the media reaction about this. Given how much sport journalists love Twitter, my guess is that at least a couple were suckered into 'confirming' the story by messaging fake accounts.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:33am

That's the part I can't get either. Nobody tried to put together a little sidebar about this girl and discovered they couldn't find anything on her at all? Nobody tried to get a quote from her family after she'd died? A fair amount of the stories in Deadspin are from the local South Bend paper. I'm guessing they were just happy to build the hype rather than ask any questions, but that doesn't explain the national press.

ESPN senior columnist Gene Wojciechowski was on Sportscenter saying he'd come up empty looking for an obit or reports of the car accident but Te'o had told him to back off, so he did. On the one hand that makes him look more like a shill than a reporter. But on the other had I can see why nobody would outright call Te'o a liar for fear it'd come out they'd been looking for her under the wrong name or something like that. Really, would anybody have guessed she didn't exist AT ALL?

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:40am

I'm also genuinely dumbfounded that no student on the Stanford paper looked into the death of this supposed recent graduate. From what I've seen, these ritzy schools and the students in them tend to obsessively monitor their places in the national conversation, but maybe they're less vain over on the West Coast.

by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:57am

Unfortunately, this aspect of the story does not suprise me. Google Negativland and Helter Stupid; they completely fooled the San Francisco media without even trying.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 2:16am

There was definitely a 'big lie' effect at work here. No doubt some journalists did some checking up and ran into dead ends, but they have other stories to cover, and it would take a lot of evidence to get you to where you're willing to question whether someone's dead girlfriend is real.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 8:38am

Wouldn't investigating the girl have basically involved cyber-stalking a college girl? I'm also pretty sure that major football colleges would have a dim view of journalists digging around the private lives of their players and girlfriends.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 10:33am

Yes, if you run with this and it goes wrong, it can be a career ender. You'd REALLY have to be 100% confident in your facts to run this story. It wouldn't be at all surprising if other journalists suspected something, but just decided they'd rather not touch it.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:38am

Yes, but this wasn't really all that "private" given Te'o and ND totally embraced this whole storyline. Nobody had to dig because Te'o was providing all the information on her illness, where she'd went to school, all sorts of private details.

It's easy to see why nobody outright called him a liar, but plenty of media outlets continued to run with this story verbatim when any amount of fact checking at all should have caused them to step back and just keep quiet about it. Nobody ever asked him a simple question like "Does she go by a different name, because we can't find a record of her graduating from Stanford?"

by RickD :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:37pm

I don't see how asking about the existence of a person should be considered stalking. The media was already using her as part of a major story. In covering her death, shouldn't they take the tiny steps to see that she actually existed? Find an obituary, call the funeral home, call the hospital, etc.

by Judy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:32pm

I don't know what you mean by sports journalists, does such a thing actually exist?

by vcs (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 1:22am

Back when I lived in Minneapolis, I always enjoyed Sid Hartman's sports column. He writes in the old 'three dot' style and usually had an inside angle or two.

Then I found out that Sid was the GM of the Minneapolis Lakers and helped promote the NBA into national prominence. All while writing the basketball stories for the paper!

So, if the writers aren't working directly for the team, I guess we can be nice and call them "journalists".

by Levente from Hungary :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 2:24am

Well, his draft stock will definitely fall. I mean how would he understand coverages when (allegedly) he does not even realize that his girlfriend is not real. Could be fooled on the football field very easily.

by transmetropolitan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 7:19am

Of course he's a headcase. What do you expect with a name like TO?

by Rikki (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:21am

Meanwhile, he should fall in the draft and be picked up by a more "rational" thinking team.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:58am

No way. This guy now has Bengals written all over him.

by apbadogs :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:56am

he and Burfect would make a great duo.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:59am

Bizarre. Basically, it comes down to him either being --
A) A gigantic liar, possibly even pathological, OR
B) Shockingly naive and socially awkward.

There's also the possibility it's a combination of the two, like the guy in The Breakfast Club who claimed to have a girlfriend in Canada.

On one hand, I find it nearly impossible to believe that a football star would have so much dating difficulty as to resort to calling an online person he'd never met his "girlfriend". He even seemingly placed her death on equal footing as his (real) grandmother -- the story was always about the time when his grandmother and girlfriend died.

On the other hand, it's probably not fair to assume that he's Rico Suave just because he's good at football.

More details will undoubtedly emerge. For now, I find myself strange disposed to give him the benefit of the doubt.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:00am

He's a devout Mormon, so perhaps he found having a girlfriend he could not have contact with was actually a plus.

by rageon :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:13am

Bizarre. Basically, it comes down to him either being --
A) A gigantic liar, possibly even pathological, OR
B) Shockingly naive and socially awkward.

Can't it be a little of both? Perhaps he was duped. But in addition to that, it's very possible that once the story took off he imbelished the extent of the relationsip in order to make it a better story, assuming no one would even actually look into it.

On the other hand, it's probably not fair to assume that he's Rico Suave just because he's good at football.

True. There was a hockey player at my school (North Dakota) that, as told to me by someone in the know at the time, was completely awkward with girls and couldn't manage so much as a date. He has since made many millions of dollars in the NHL.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:55am

Initially, I thought it might be possible it was both, but now I don't think so. If he believed she was real and cared about her, why tell lies that could be hurtful to her and her family? If he knows he's being duped, why perpetuate somebody else's lie when he has no control over the situation and has no idea what the hoaxer's end game really is? They'd have the power to blow the whole thing up at any time. The only thing that makes any sense is he knew it was all a hoax from the start.

by apbadogs :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:55am

Sounds to me like the entire Te'o family are a bunch of mouth breathing idiots.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:31pm

Forget Manti Te'o, I'm wondering now if Notre Dame was in on it. Swarbrick's presser yesterday was surreal. I can see them issuing a statement that they support him and then keeping some distance until all the facts become clear. But Swarbrick volunteers that they've already completed an investigation and determined Te'o wasn't involved at all?

By their own timeline, Te'o never talked to them until the day after Christmas. And they had time to conclude a thorough investigation? Bare minimum there'd need to be tons of phone and text records supporting his statements about the overnight 8-hour phone calls, there'd be a paper trail of him sending flowers to the funeral, etc. And even if he provided them with all of that it would take time to go through it and make sure the numbers didn't belong to friends and family of Te'o. No way has there been time to conclusively determine he wasn't involved. So, why is ND so desperate to back him?

by RickD :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:39pm

I doubt Notre Dame's interest in finding the truth trumps their interest in protecting their image. See the precedent at Penn State.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 2:26pm

Agreed, but there's a long ways from not really caring what the truth is and going all-in with Manti's crazy story that's full of holes. They did a thorough enough investigation to decide he was totally the victim but don't have any answer for "If he never met her, how come he said he did?"

And unlike Penn State this isn't a criminal matter or even an ongoing thing. Te'o is graduated and the hoax is over. Incredibly dumb to needlessly expose the school to fallout from this.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 3:03pm

Yeah, I actually do believe it's possible that Te'o was the victim of a hoax, but he seems to have told a lot of lies, at the very least by repeatedly telling people that he had met this nonexistent person. Whether that means that he was just embellishing what he believed to be the truth (i.e. he thought the girl was real but didn't want to admit that his only contact with her was online) or he was behind the hoax isn't remotely clear yet. It seems foolish for the school to accept his version completely before the facts are known.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 3:24pm

And even more foolish given the timeline. Te'o told ND about it on Dec. 26, they hired an investigator, and had a report back in their hands by Jan. 4 with them confident enough in the findings to positively declare he was the victim. This hoax had been going on for over a year. There would be scores of texts, email, social media and phone records to look over. They'd need to check out all the addresses and phone numbers and see who was behind them. Once they got that far, they'd still need to investigate and determine those people weren't tied to Te'o in order to conclude he had no involvement. No way does that all happen in that short of a span.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 10:05pm

Hey, you're like Nostradamus except accurate. Either Te'o continued to perpetuate the story after learning he had been hoaxed, or he was in on it all along. I tend towards the first explanation, but who knows.

Sheesh, they went all-in backing Te'o without even checking his public statements after he claimed he had learned of the hoax?


by Led :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:49pm

To be fair, there's a difference between receiving an "unnerving" call from someone who sounds like your dead internet girlfriend (which is apparently what happened on December 6) and figuring out the whole thing was a hoax and she never existed. We don't know the extent of that call. Was it a "I know what you did last summer" call, a confession, a message from heaven, some other type of attempted mind f***? You might get the random, unnerving call, get suspicious, make some calls, try to track people down, etc. With understandable denial, it might take a week or so before the obvious truth sinks in.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:33am

I don't agree with your reading. Te'o and Notre Dame both unequivocally said he found out on December 6th. There's been no mention of a period of confusion.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:46am

End of ostp and whole T'eo story make think of Genesis song "land of cobfusion". Not sure Iif that name of song but "this is the land of confusion" said in song. Vidoeo creepy. Had weird puppets or something in it. Had Ronald Reagan one. Last time saw video was sometime in 1990s by accident. Quickly changed channel think video debut 1986

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:21am

Jesus. Just watched it on YouTube. More NFPS (nightmare fuel per second) than that 'Ring' tape.

EDIT: If there's a bottom to the uncanny valley, that video must reach it.

by Led :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 7:57am

Not sure where you're seeing such an unequivocal statement about discovery of a hoax on December 6. All I've seen is mention of an upsetting phone call on December 6, in which a woman sounding like "Kekua" said she was alive. Interestingly enough, while trying to find the more definitive statement you referred to, I found this NY Times article offering the period of confusion theory as a possible explanation of the December 8 interview:

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:55am

An even easier to believe possibility is the Dec. 6 call never was invented until around Dec. 26 when he panicked and went to his coach. Since he's been caught in multiple lies, I'll go with the assumption everything was a lie until proven otherwise. There would be a phone record for the Dec. 6 call, just like all the other calls he said happened. (Any bets he'll never be able to produce records of 8-hour, overnight calls?) He's going to need to admit it was all a lie or start releasing some of that stuff.

by Led :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:51pm

Why is he going to need to publicly release documents? I understand that people (especially in the media) will want him to and will be suspicious otherwise, but there isn't a criminal investigation. All he really has to do to secure his own interests is satisfy at least one NFL front office that he's telling the truth. (For the record, I think the idea that he made the whole thing up from the beginning is extremely improbable and inconsistent with the December tweets that have been discovered, although he clearly embellished the extent of the relationship.)

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 3:56pm

He isn't going to convince any NFL front office he's telling the truth unless he either proves his current story is plausible (and oodles of phone records would actually do that) or he comes clean to at least admitting he'd made up part of the stories. But, his draft stock has already been irrepairably damaged. There were going to be questions about if he was fast enough for the NFL but his leadership abilities might have overcome some of those doubts. But since laughingstocks aren't viewed as team leaders, he's torpedoed his biggest asset. (There's also the issue that many now assume him to be gay, which will also scare off some teams.) Somebody will draft him, but nowhere close to where he would have gone.

The other reason he might want to consider releasing records is to head off the possibility of Tuiasosopo going public blaming Manti for the whole thing. Somebody is going to offer him some money for his story and he's probably getting tired of being labeled the bad guy.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:13pm

Also, I'm not getting why his "embellishing" things would make him look any better than if he had made the entire thing up. Let's say it's initially a little prank on him and he figures out his buddy Tuiasosopo was behind it and decides it'd be fun to dupe everybody else. That puts him in the boat of lying to everybody around him including his family.

And the only way I can see him embellishing anything is if he knew who was behind it. There's only 3 options:
1. He believed the girl was real, so he wouldn't be publicly embellishing things because her and her family would think he was a total jerk.
2. He figures it is a hoax but doesn't know who is behind it. Nobody in their right mind would embellish things having no idea what the hoaxer's end game was since they could have made the whole thing public at any time.
3. He knows exactly who is behind it and is playing along, in which case he's not embellishing anything but just serving as a participant in the deception.

by Led :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:33pm

Making up a fake girlfriend and then killing her off for publicity on the same day your grandmother dies (and fake crying about the girlfriend in front of coaches and teammates) is sociopathic. It's seriously deranged. Having a real online relationship (or thinking you do) with someone you've come to care about but making it out to be more than an online relationship because it's geeky and embarrassing to have an internet-only girlfriend is totally understandable, especially if you're kinda shy and awkward and don't have a lot of experience dating anyway. I don't know if the latter is true about Te'o but it wouldn't surprise me.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 5:44pm

Agreed about the sociopathic part. But even if you buy his entire story, he's a messed up dude. The love of your life is nearly killed in a car wreck, then gets leukemia and goes through a bone marrow transplant before dying. You never visit her once? Never get any friends or family to visit her? You don't attend the funeral and don't send anybody else in your place?

And you find out there was this huge hoax on you but days after finding out you're still referencing her? And then there's always the question of how this hoax could have unfolded in the way he claims it did. Some girl was convinced to talk to him for HOURS on the phone virtually every night? Sometimes talking to him straight through til the next morning? For what? They never got any money out of him. This hoax would have taken hundreds of hours to keep going between the calls, social media, texts, etc. They were even texting and calling his dad and brother, which is a complete waste of time if the only goal was to dupe Manti. Selling it to his family only makes sense if Manti was behind it.

by Led :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 5:58pm

I agree he's a messed up dude. And I'm highly skeptical about those 8 hour long phone calls. I think that type of embellishment is creepy by itself, but a lesser scale of creepy than making the whole thing up. Plus we know the Ronaiah guy (perhaps with accomplices) previously trolled other people with the same Lennay Kekua scam, so there's precedent.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 6:53pm

One of the more interesting theories out there that would answer a lot of questions is it was all just an elaborate beard for him. That would explain why his family was being hoaxed and also why he'd claim to have met her.

Keeping a hoax going for years at this scale would take a true psychopath. But what if it was a much simpler shorter-lived prank and after the "gotcha" reveal Teo decided it could benefit him if it just kept going? Only it grows too big, the efforts to end it only bring more scrutiny, and he eventually can't see a way out other than to go to the school and claim he'd been victimized.

by Led :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 7:21pm

Could be either of those! The beard story is actually the best case scenario for everybody except for uber-Catholic ND.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 5:50pm

The SI story I linked to in my post simply said that Te'o found out that the person he had thought was Lennay was still alive over the phone on December 6, full stop. No equivocation or description of the phone call as merely "unnerving." However, I later read a different article that used the "unnerving phone call" phrase. I think different outlets are presenting the same information in different ways, and that accounts for our different takes on the situation. I'm still skeptical that there could have been real confusion after that call as to whether Te'o had been hoaxed. But, if he had been embellishing the relationship all along it might have felt easier for him to keep saying the same stuff to reporters that he had been saying.

This story changes by the minute, but Occam's razor says you look for the simplest explanation that accounts for all the available data, and I haven't seen anything yet that *can't* be explained by Te'o being the victim of a hoax that was extended and exacerbated by his own lies and embellishments.

by Mike Y :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 1:28pm

Maybe this is all an elaborate cover for him being gay? That's really the most defensible explanation for his character in all of this.

by Dean :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 3:19pm

Interesting possibility. It could also be a ploy for sympathy as part of his heisman campaign - which leads to the question posed above about whether notre dame might be the puppetmaster.

by jds :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 2:26pm

Well the kid is about 21 I think, having come over from Hawaii. It may be he is incredibility naive, and/or socially akward. There are lots of cases of young stars on the field wanting to hide when off the field, because they know how to act on the field, but not off of it. He might have had someone lead him into something that just got away from him. Or he might be a schemer/pranker who started to create this (for whatever reason) and again, it just might have got away from him.

Whatever the situation, the best answer is going to come once somebody speaks to his high school friends/teammates. They will have a true reading on his "character", and what might be behind all of this.

by Theo :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:01pm

Guy gets pranked online with a fake girl. Guy takes it all too seriously.
Prank is cancelled or goes too far: girl 'dies'.
Guy takes it again to seriously... can't say all of a sudden "yeah well, the girl I've been so enthusiastic about? We haven't even met, so never mind her". So he makes up stories about her. Parents believe it, make up stories when the press asks about it.
Everyone runs away with it and the guy is left with "I can't tell everyone I haven't even met her".

by Led :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:03pm

Seems plausible that Te'o truly believed Kekua was a real person he felt an emotional connection with and who was in a car accident and died of cancer, etc. (and so was a victim of the hoax) and at the same time embellished his relationship with her (both before and after her "death"). The latter is something you could see an awkward, shy 22 year old guy surrounded by lots of social and sexually active young people doing. Those lies are obviously bad, but sad and almost understandable. On the other hand, completely inventing a fake girlfriend and killing her off for publicity is totally sociopathic.

By the way, are there direct quotes from Te'o where he said he met her in person? I've seen the story in the South Bend paper that doesn't quote or source the story to anyone and I've seen the quotes from his father that mention Kekua visiting Te'o in Hawaii. Again, Te'o lying about the extent of his relationship to his family is one thing; lying about it to reporters is another. (Failing to correct the false story once it's out there is yet another thing...)

by Tino (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:54pm

The guy who wrote the Te'o story for Sports Illustrated that included details about his "dead" girlfriend has now posted a transcript of his interview with him:


Whatever the exact details of the story, it's pretty clear that Te'o was himself responsible for embellishing a lot of the details.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:20pm

If there was ever a time he wasn't in on it, it would have been when he first mentioned her a couple times on Twitter way at the beginning. Then she basically disappears until his Heisman campaign really gets going. My guess is somewhere in there he and and his buddy had a laugh over the prank and got the bright idea a girlfriend facing all sorts of hardships he could bravely support would really help his image. (Was her dying part of the original plan or their attempt to shut the whole thing down when it started to attract too much attention? Could be either or a mixture of both.)

Also not discounting the possibility that his family was the primary target as it is clear that they were either in on it or somebody was spending lots of time selling the hoax to them.

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 7:17pm

She was in Clint Eastwood's chair.

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:49pm

Still not enough to make me forget the real story here is that SI, et al, are terrible at journalism. They essentially abdicated it to twitter. Ok, why don't I just follow everyone I'm interested in on Twitter and cut them out entirely?

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 2:16pm

Think Si pretty good at journalism. Do not want to raek T'ep article write over coals for not xhekxing on guy's suposoedly dead girlfriend . Imagine if did that all the time?

Ediotor- Hey, Thomas lake for thsat article you doing on matt Ryan you need to check up and make sure Ryan's first grade teacher really die in 1999 in Iowa while on vCation.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 5:02pm

What's the problem? A guy told a fake story about a fake girlfriend to fake journalists.

It could be worse than Te'o making up a dead girlfriend to pump up the locker room. Ray Lewis actually killed a man to do that.

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 2:40pm

Now Tuaisosopo is going to try to take the fall, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 01/19/2013 - 1:35pm

I think this a very silly way to create a scandal. There isn't any good reason for what happened. Wasn't the real death of his grandmother inspiration enough?

by erniecohen :: Mon, 01/21/2013 - 9:37am

If he shows the phone records, this thing is over already. So either his advisors are idiots, or there were no 8-hour phone calls. So he's in on it, or he did even more ridiculous embellishing. Either way is going to be very bad for him.