(Image source: Deadspin)

 

 

BY ZACH TOOMBS

 

 

A truly bizarre story in the sports world Wednesday, as news broke of an elaborate hoax involving a former Heisman Trophy candidate.

 

The sports site Deadspin dropped the bomb at 4:10 eastern time — that the story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o losing his girlfriend to leukemia last September was more tall tale than tragedy.

 

It was a narrative than major media outlets milked for everything it had.

 

“What makes his performance all the more remarkable is that he did while enduring almost unimaginable anguish … ‘Every letter, she said “Remember, be humble, be gracious. And always remember that I love you.”’” [Video: CBS]

 

“I felt all my loved ones with me. I literally felt them with me. And after every play I made I said that’s for you.” [Video: ESPN]

 

But the girlfriend Te’o thought passed away, named Lennay Marie Kekua, was a total online fabrication — built on fake Twitter and Instagram accounts using another woman’s photos.

 

Deadspin reports no official record of Kekua exist — no record of birth or death, and no record of enrollment at Stanford University, where Te’o says they met after a football game in November 2009.

 

In October 2012, Te’o spoke with the South Bend Tribune about his relationship. They wrote: "Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes."

 

ESPN reported in November that Te’o and Kekua spoke on the phone every night and that he offered to visit her as she fell deeply ill from leukemia.


“Kekua made Te'o promise he would not leave Notre Dame should anything happen to her, requesting only a few white roses.”

 

Te’o did suffer a very real loss on the same day he was told Kekua died, when his grandmother passed away. The two deaths were both frequently cited in the press.

 

But, oh, how the plot thickens. Even though Te’o was not truthful about meeting Kekua in-person, since she doesn’t exist, but it’s not clear whether he was lying out of embarrassment, or somehow complicit in the hoax.

 

In a news conference Wednesday evening, Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick had this to say:

 

“I’m gonna let Manti tell the story because he deserves that right, but I will tell you this was exclusively an online relationship.” [Video: NBC]

 

And in a statement, the university said: “On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim” … of what it called ... “a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators...”

 

So many things about this story are still unknown: who was behind the hoax, what their motive was, and when Te’o will speak to the press face-to-face about the matter. In a statement Wednesday, he called the experience painful and humiliating.

 

When you lay out the list of the nation’s media outlets who were fooled by the hoax, as SB Nation did, it’s pretty shocking. It includes ESPN, The Boston Globe, NBC and the Los Angeles Times. For the record, that would include us at Newsy as well.

Manti Te’o Entangled in Controversy Over Fake Girlfriend

by Zach Toombs
0
Transcript
Jan 16, 2013

Manti Te’o Entangled in Controversy Over Fake Girlfriend

 

(Image source: Deadspin)

 

 

BY ZACH TOOMBS

 

 

A truly bizarre story in the sports world Wednesday, as news broke of an elaborate hoax involving a former Heisman Trophy candidate.

 

The sports site Deadspin dropped the bomb at 4:10 eastern time — that the story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o losing his girlfriend to leukemia last September was more tall tale than tragedy.

 

It was a narrative than major media outlets milked for everything it had.

 

“What makes his performance all the more remarkable is that he did while enduring almost unimaginable anguish … ‘Every letter, she said “Remember, be humble, be gracious. And always remember that I love you.”’” [Video: CBS]

 

“I felt all my loved ones with me. I literally felt them with me. And after every play I made I said that’s for you.” [Video: ESPN]

 

But the girlfriend Te’o thought passed away, named Lennay Marie Kekua, was a total online fabrication — built on fake Twitter and Instagram accounts using another woman’s photos.

 

Deadspin reports no official record of Kekua exist — no record of birth or death, and no record of enrollment at Stanford University, where Te’o says they met after a football game in November 2009.

 

In October 2012, Te’o spoke with the South Bend Tribune about his relationship. They wrote: "Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes."

 

ESPN reported in November that Te’o and Kekua spoke on the phone every night and that he offered to visit her as she fell deeply ill from leukemia.


“Kekua made Te'o promise he would not leave Notre Dame should anything happen to her, requesting only a few white roses.”

 

Te’o did suffer a very real loss on the same day he was told Kekua died, when his grandmother passed away. The two deaths were both frequently cited in the press.

 

But, oh, how the plot thickens. Even though Te’o was not truthful about meeting Kekua in-person, since she doesn’t exist, but it’s not clear whether he was lying out of embarrassment, or somehow complicit in the hoax.

 

In a news conference Wednesday evening, Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick had this to say:

 

“I’m gonna let Manti tell the story because he deserves that right, but I will tell you this was exclusively an online relationship.” [Video: NBC]

 

And in a statement, the university said: “On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim” … of what it called ... “a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators...”

 

So many things about this story are still unknown: who was behind the hoax, what their motive was, and when Te’o will speak to the press face-to-face about the matter. In a statement Wednesday, he called the experience painful and humiliating.

 

When you lay out the list of the nation’s media outlets who were fooled by the hoax, as SB Nation did, it’s pretty shocking. It includes ESPN, The Boston Globe, NBC and the Los Angeles Times. For the record, that would include us at Newsy as well.

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