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Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax
January 16, 2013 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Fans of college football know the inspirational story of Manti Te'o - a Mormon Samoan linebacker from Hawaii, Te'o led Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season this year. A Heisman trophy finalist, Te'o overcame great adversity during the season, playing through the deaths of both his grandmother and his girlfriend. Well, except that, according to Deadspin, the whole girlfriend dying thing was actually just a big hoax. She never existed.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (372 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
When someone first linked to the Deadspin article I had to check the URL because I was convinced that the story itself had to be a hoax.

The world is very, very strange.
posted by selfnoise at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


*record scratch*

Wait, what?
posted by gauche at 1:45 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe she's from Canada.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2013 [41 favorites]


Ruh-roh
posted by Ironmouth at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2013


holy shit.
posted by JPD at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2013


Sadly, I think one of the Deadspin commenters got it right. It's possible that Manti is a gay Mormon, and used a fake girlfriend as a cover for the relationship. I really hope that's not the case.
posted by DrDreidel at 1:49 PM on January 16, 2013 [28 favorites]


Holy shit. This is weeeeeeeeeird.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:49 PM on January 16, 2013


Sadly, I think one of the Deadspin commenters got it right. It's possible that Manti is a gay Mormon, and used a fake girlfriend as a cover for the relationship. I really hope that's not the case.
posted by DrDreidel at 3:49 PM on January 16


Absolutely my first thought as well. Were the parents in on it though, or was this set up to deceive them as well?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:51 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's College Football. Specifically, Notre Dame (wasn't that original "Win one for the Gipper" anecdote wildly exaggerated?). I am totally unsurprised.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:51 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


ESPN and Sports Illustrated are still running with Chip Kelly bouncing as their NCAAFB headlines - wonder how long it'll take them to respond.
posted by superfluousm at 1:52 PM on January 16, 2013


There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te'o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te'o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te'o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te'o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te'o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te'o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.

Lennay Kekua's last words to Manti Te'o were not "I love you."

A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was "80 percent sure" that Manti Te'o was "in on it," and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua's death with publicity in mind. According to the friend, there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te'o together on Tuiasosopo's now-deleted Instagram account.

The sheer quantity of falsehoods about Manti's relationship with Lennay makes that friend, and another relative of Ronaiah's, believe Te'o had to know the truth. Mostly, though, the friend simply couldn't believe that Te'o would be stupid enough—or Ronaiah Tuiasosopo clever enough—to sustain the relationship for nearly a year.


Well, they did a good job.

I don't believe it. Deadspin did some actual, honest-to-goodness investigative journalism.
posted by zarq at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Are we even sure that the football player's real? Might be CGI.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:58 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


oneswellfoop: "(wasn't that original "Win one for the Gipper" anecdote wildly exaggerated?)"

Gipper speech backstory. Short version: Rockne gave the speech, but it was eight years after Gipp died, and no one ever called him The Gipper.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:58 PM on January 16, 2013


Hey hey - that's same crack team that brought us Brett Favre's cock I'll have you know.
posted by JPD at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


One of the realest people I know.
posted by box at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Excellent reporting! I wonder how many of the media outlets that were duped will bother following up on this story.
posted by sixpack at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2013


That's some great reporting. This is going to be a big story.
posted by Kwine at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2013


zarq: "I don't believe it. Deadspin did some actual, honest-to-goodness investigative journalism."

That's kind of unfair. Sure, it's a lot of dick jokes and Magary swearing, but they have broken some real stories from time to time, like MLB financial docs. While they clearly got a lot of yuks out of Favre's penis, they also helped push the NFL into doing something about a story the league was trying to cover up.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


I am genuinely shocked. That doesn't happen very often when I read the news. I care little to nothing for the Irish, but there's nothing in this that I can take glee from.
posted by Atreides at 2:04 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


In related news, Manti's father does not own a bubblegum factory, and cannot in fact beat up your Dad.
posted by facetious at 2:04 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


His uncle does work for Nintendo, though, right?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


We would like to assure you that nothing like this would ever happen in Ann Arbor, MI.

Go Blue!
posted by kbanas at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Chrysostom: " Sure, it's a lot of dick jokes and Magary swearing, but they have broken some real stories from time to time, like MLB financial docs. While they clearly got a lot of yuks out of Favre's penis, they also helped push the NFL into doing something about a story the league was trying to cover up."

True. I had forgotten that they broke the MLB story. And this.
posted by zarq at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Doesn't anybody check these things out any more?

"Yeah, he had this girlfriend, but we never met her, never spoke to her, and now she's dead."

"Okay, great!!!"
posted by Curious Artificer at 2:13 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sadly, I think one of the Deadspin commenters got it right. It's possible that Manti is a gay Mormon, and used a fake girlfriend as a cover for the relationship. I really hope that's not the case.

My first thought too. Mormon and going pro, too? Pretty unacceptable to be gay in either of those situations.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's possible that Manti is a gay Mormon, and used a fake girlfriend as a cover for the relationship.

Without knowing anything more, this strikes me as the simplest, most straightforward explanation. I don't know what to hope for.
posted by gauche at 2:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


While they clearly got a lot of yuks out of Favre's penis

Come on now, it wasn't THAT gross
posted by nathancaswell at 2:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. I've watched a few episodes of Nev Schulman's show on MTV after enjoying the movie, and it's quite fascinating. The people who are being fooled are amazingly resistant to the truth, even after coming face to face with the person perpetrating the hoax. It does seem like Teo was probably in on the whole thing, but I would not be shocked to find out he was being fooled the whole time. Not sure how he could even prove it, if that was the case.

Really interesting story.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I haven't finished the article, but reading the 'timeline' makes me wonder - isn't it possible that Manti had a long-distance girlfriend who presented herself as Kekua, and claimed that she was in a car accident, and then 'died' a la Kacie Nicole? It's certainly not unprecedented.
posted by muddgirl at 2:16 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somebody that I was very close to did something similar to this: making up a fake romantic partner only to kill that person off in an extremely dramatic, extremely emotional, extremely provably-false way. When confronted with solid evidence that I knew it was bullshit, the person I was close to stuck to the story so much as to insist that U.S. Department of Defense records had been falsified due to a parental request that their child "not be treated as a statistic."

It bore many of the same hallmarks as Te'o's tale: an ever-changing story, drama that gets slowly ramped up, a dramatic turn for the worse, and then a terrible, sympathy-garnering denouement.

The person that I was very close to was a pathological liar (it turns out this wasn't the only major life thing that was invented from whole cloth). The yarns weren't spun to cover up for something else they didn't want people to know, they were entirely ploys (in the Kaycee Nicole vein) to get people to pay attention.

It's a hurtful, vicious thing to do, and when it happened to me I was among a small group of people being lied to. Running such a scam using (inter)national media is extra mindboggling.

If Te'o's family weren't in on this -- and if they're feeling anything like I felt when it happened to me -- I can tell you what they're going through right now totally blows. The worst possible betrayal of trust.

And if they were on it, well... then... I hope they have poopy, poopy days. Super poopy to the extreme. Blergh. Please excuse my salty language.
posted by davidjmcgee at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


He and his family claim to have met her - indeed, that the relationship started in person, rather than online. At the very least, they lied about that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


isn't it possible that Manti had a long-distance girlfriend who presented herself as Kekua, and claimed that she was in a car accident, and then 'died' a la Kacie Nicole?

Not possible. Keep reading.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chip Kelly reclines in his seat on the charter plane winging him eastward, where he's always known he'd go one day. It was all going according to plan. He'd land on the ground and they'd leave him alone, distracted as they always were by the believably human trifle he'd concocted, a shiny bauble to draw the hordes' attention to South Bend and away from him, so he could get to work in peace. It had been easy, but then again, it was always easy. The hardest thing for Chip was understanding why it - any of it - was so hard for everyone else.

Their mistake, he tells himself, had always been to see the players as anything more than what they were: pieces on a board to lift and move and sweep into a drawer as he (no, not as he, as the game) pleased. When would they learn that that everything he did - everything they found thrilling and everything they found cruel alike - was merely the unknowable and inscrutable master of the game speaking through him?

posted by superfluousm at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


He and his family claim to have met her - indeed, that the relationship started in person, rather than online. At the very least, they lied about that.

Unless I missed part of the article, he claimed to have met her in person, but his family did not. In either case, the whole thing is deeply, deeply weird.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2013


This is the strangest story. Notre Dame football meets Catfish meets Kaycee Nicole.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:20 PM on January 16, 2013


T'eo could very well be gay, I suppose, but personally it strikes me as bizarre that anybody would jump to that conclusion or characterize it as the most simple or straightforward possibility. The Deadspin article speculates, via quote, that this hoax was cooked up for publicity's sake. Isn't that explanation simpler?
posted by cribcage at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Good one, Nick Kroll.
posted by acidic at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


He and his family claim to have met her - indeed, that the relationship started in person, rather than online. At the very least, they lied about that.

His father said they'd never met her. However, he also said he congratulated her by phone when she graduated.
posted by zarq at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sadly, I think one of the Deadspin commenters got it right. It's possible that Manti is a gay Mormon ...

As others above, my first thought.
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2013


Notre Dame has released a statement: "Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died."

Weirdness squared at this point.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2013


Not possible. Keep reading.
A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was "80 percent sure" that Manti Te'o was "in on it," and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua's death with publicity in mind.
I find this... unconvincing. It's sort of disappointing that such a gripping article starts to jump to conclusions at the end of it. It seems equally likely that Manti was in on it, or Tuiasosopo was stringing him along via a more private source than Twitter, like email. Deadspin hasn't shown that Manti didn't talk to some girl on the phone presenting herself as Kekua. But presenting that as the "obvious" conclusion is more sensational.
posted by muddgirl at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


cribcage: "The Deadspin article speculates, via quote, that this hoax was cooked up for publicity's sake."

He was a strong Heisman candidate, pulling the heartstrings couldn't have hurt his chances.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2013


@billbarnwell on Twitter: I'm not always the most attentive boyfriend, but as @fbgchase put it, how do you get tricked into not knowing your girlfriend doesn't exist?
posted by davidjmcgee at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


The simplest explanation is that Te'o is a pathological liar who got caught.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


T'eo could very well be gay, I suppose, but personally it strikes me as bizarre that anybody would jump to that conclusion or characterize it as the most simple or straightforward possibility.

Unless I misunderstood, this Ronaiah Tuiasosopo guy is the one who ran the twitter accounts and went to some trouble to scam the woman the photos are really of out of a unique and personalized photo. It's possible that this failed football star was just in on it and helping T'eo out for publicity, but it seems far more likely that they're lovers, though I'm sure the publicity was a plus.
posted by cmoj at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2013


The simplest explanation is that Te'o is a pathological liar who got caught.

But how many pathological liars have a random stooge to falsify evidence of their lies?
posted by cmoj at 2:26 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only other explanation I could think of was that Te'o's friend was messing with him for whatever reason, Te'o thought Kekua was real, and made up stories about meeting in person because he was too embarrassed to admit it was only online and he hadn't actually met her.

The gay theory seems likely as well, I'm just not sure why he would need a friend to help him fake an online girlfriend. Surely it couldn't be that hard to find Facebook pictures to steal? Unless the friend is his boyfriend and they were mutually looking for a cover for their relationship. I dunno.

The whole thing is bizarre. It could certainly have been faked for publicity/attention, I just think the friend being involved is odd. I guess it could have been the friend's idea or something, or else he's easily in thrall to people he admires.
posted by Nattie at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't the simplest explanation that the guy who had, in the past, used Kekua to scam marks
We spoke with friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who asserted that Ronaiah was the man behind Lennay. He created Lennay in 2008, one source said, and Te'o wasn't the first person to have an online "relationship" with her. One mark—who had been "introduced" to Lennay by Tuiasosopo—lasted about a month before family members grew suspicious that Lennay could never be found on the telephone, and that wherever one expected Lennay to be, Ronaiah was there instead.
used Kekua to scam a mark?

"Manti is too smart to fall for it" isn't convincing. People are surprisingly dumb.
posted by muddgirl at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lennay Kekua is Hawai'ian for Kaycee Nicole.
posted by phearlez at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


Kekua should probably be in quotes.
posted by muddgirl at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2013


Deadspin hasn't shown that Manti didn't talk to some girl on the phone presenting herself as Kekua.

Maybe he talked to some girl on the phone, but there's no way he actually met the woman in the photos. Whatever stories exist about Teo meeting the woman pictured in the Twitter avatar: those stories are impossible to be true. That's what I was saying was not possible.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:28 PM on January 16, 2013


I'm kind of shocked no one bothered to check up on the facts on the girlfriend earlier. A lot of this is stuff that a diligent Googler would have a reasonable expectation of finding out: car accident involving severe injury in a certain area and list of Stanford graduates from 2012 especially. Also weird: Stanford isn't a terribly huge school (about 7000 undergraduates), and I would expect there to be an article in the university's newspaper about the death of a recent alumni with a connection to college football. Did anyone who looked up or pursued such details just shrug off inconsistencies?

Man, I thought online media fandom had some weird pseuicide stories, but this one is bizarre.
posted by yasaman at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, I'm not trying to claim that Manti isn't a liar liar pants on fire. He absolutely lied about part of his story, likely for publicity. But my "internet fraudster" senses are also tingling.
posted by muddgirl at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2013


muddgirl, Te'o had to be in on it. He told the South Bend Tribune about how he met her (in person). His parents told the South Bend Tribune about the times he had visited her in Hawai'i, so either he had lied to them or they were lying to the reporter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:30 PM on January 16, 2013


The ease with which such a lie would be disproved kind of makes you less likely to suspect anyone would try it.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:30 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't the simplest explanation that the guy who had, in the past, used Kekua to scam marks

I missed that part. What does he have to gain? Dick pics?
posted by cmoj at 2:30 PM on January 16, 2013


If Notre Dame did know about this hoax on the 26th, as they claim in this statement, why did they let the narrative continue? Couldn't they have known this would come out eventually?
posted by tittergrrl at 2:31 PM on January 16, 2013


Notre Dame has released a statement: "Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died."

Well I know I certainly take every statement out of Notre Dame about due process investigations at face value.

A shame stories about this sort of thing don't go viral.
posted by phearlez at 2:34 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


But my "internet fraudster" senses are also tingling.

Soooo, what is it that you think happened? That someone pretended to be a woman, that the fake-woman carried on an online relationship with Teo, that Teo lied to the press and said that he had actually met the fake-woman, and then the fake-woman hoaxed her fake-death?

Because it seems like if he HAD actually met a woman, then they'd just use pictures of the woman that he actually met, instead of asking for pictures from Reba, a woman who says that she has never met Teo.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:35 PM on January 16, 2013


Te'o clearly told some lies in this scenario, but that doesn't mean he knew Kekua was fake. Plenty of guys with long distance Internet girlfriends lie about how often they are in physical contact, partly to avoid being accused of having a fake "Canadian girlfriend".
posted by Rock Steady at 2:35 PM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


"This story will come out eventually" > "This story will come out the week before we play for the national title". No surprise there.
posted by acidic at 2:36 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


muddgirl, Te'o had to be in on it. He told the South Bend Tribune about how he met her (in person). His parents told the South Bend Tribune about the times he had visited her in Hawai'i, so either he had lied to them or they were lying to the reporter.

A couple of my friends met on the internet and they used to lie about it. They're not on the national media stage, though. Again, I'm not arguing that Manti has never lied about anything related to this relationship.

I missed that part. What does he have to gain? Dick pics?

lols? In a lot of these cases the fraudster gains access to people that he or she normally wouldn't (so Manti meets 'Kekua online', Kekua introduces her best friend in the whole wide world Tuiasosopo who is such a cool guy, can you show him a good time?) This is a pretty common characteristic of these sorts of cases.

Soooo, what is it that you think happened?

I don't really think anything happened. Deadspin has not convinced me, Random Internet Judge, that Manti knew that Kekua was not a real person.
posted by muddgirl at 2:36 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't really think anything happened. Deadspin has not convinced me, Random Internet Judge, that Manti knew that Kekua was not a real person.

Wow, I'm not judging you, I was just asking you to explain something that I didn't understand.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2013


23skidoo: I am the Random Internet Judge, sitting in judgement of Manti.
posted by muddgirl at 2:39 PM on January 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's tough to believe Te'o wasn't in on it, but I'm at least willing to entertain the possibility.

Say you're a young man from a religious family in an ego-driven sport without much experience with women. You "meet" a "woman" on Twitter and soon enough the two of you agree you are in love. When people ask you about your dating life, you tell them about your long-distance girlfriend. Now, you don't want to admit that you've never actually met your girlfriend so you tell little fibs about how you met assuming that no one would really notice or care.

At the end, either the fraudster ends the hoax by killing off the woman or you figure out it's a hoax and tell the story about her dying (conveniently at the same time as your grandmother) to save face.

It may not be likely, but it's plausible.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


muddgirl is the judge in her statement, 23skidoo.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Division One middle linebackers who are first team all-americans don't need to make up girlfriends.

1) At any big time D1 school there are groups of the opposite sex that would date you just for being on the football team
2) If he had said "I'm religious and don't believe in sex before marriage and between school and football I'm too busy for a serious relationship" he would have been held up as some superior human being by the jackass sports writers who were captivated by the dead girlfriend story.
posted by JPD at 2:41 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


The mis-fire is that his performance on the field improved after the fake girlfriend died.
How much money could you make in college football wagers by sandbagging a linebacker?
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 2:41 PM on January 16, 2013


Well shit, this means I donated to leukemia research for nothing!
posted by Legomancer at 2:43 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well if you read the ND statement he knew the story was out (in some form or another) on 12/26. Probably not a bad time to bet on the tahde.
posted by JPD at 2:43 PM on January 16, 2013


A friend suggested that Te'o's rather unimpressive performance in the National Championship might have been as a result of him realizing the story was going to break.
posted by Atreides at 2:45 PM on January 16, 2013


What I find fascinating about this is that every possible explanation seems almost equally bizarre ----

The deep con: it's all a part of the Heisman campaign, and the cousin, the family and player were all in on it

The half con: the cousin is con man, possibly with a crush on the player, and he catfishes the player, who innocently abets him with a few white lies of his own "yeah, I met her on the Internetat a Stanford game" and the cancer plot becomes a way to bring the deception to a close that spins out of control

The Lover's Mask: "dude, who were you talking to on the phone for eight hours with last night?" "My cous-uh, girlfriend! Yeah, that's right. You wouldn't know her. She lives in Palo Alto."

Whichever it was, I can't decide if it's more incredible that they thought they could get away with this or that they almost did...after all, now that his college career is over, even if he gets picked high in the draft this would have ended up being a dusty fact mentioned in half a sentence of a profile piece focusing on his pro career, probably without mentioning the girlfriend's name anywhere. Remarkable.
posted by Diablevert at 2:45 PM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


On failure to preview, in line with JPD just said.
posted by Atreides at 2:46 PM on January 16, 2013


23skidoo: I am the Random Internet Judge, sitting in judgement of Manti.

Whew. Judge away, in that case.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:46 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe he was dating Lance Armstrong and they made up this story together.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:48 PM on January 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


This will make a great Lifetime movie.
posted by republican at 2:48 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't like how much I'd watch a TV program called "Random Internet Judge" but I know I would.

Related: Internet-based person-fraud + football + something that makes Notre Dame look bad = the sweetest spot a story will hit for me this week.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:50 PM on January 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


Will this impact his place in the draft? To me (sports fan but not really a sports expert and certainly not the owner of a pro football team) I wouldn't want to touch this guy with a 10-foot pole.
posted by sallybrown at 2:54 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many wins will Brian Kelly have to vacate over this?
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:55 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


He was likely to get over drafted because of his "leadership skills" - but that's all shot to hell now. He's a bit undersized at a position that isn't considered a place worth spending high draft picks in general.

So figure maybe the second day now?
posted by JPD at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2013


He is still going to go in the first, unless this story gets much worse.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


then he'll be overdrafted.
posted by JPD at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2013


If anything Te'o proved he's good with intangibles.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2013 [39 favorites]


I know Deadspin is part of Nick Denton's hated media empire, and they are snarky and obnoxious and can obsess over meaningless trivia. But I still feel like their gadfly approach can be uniquely useful in covering the world of professional (and big time college) sports, since there seems to be too much coziness between the "reporters" and the athletes they are covering. Not saying that this coziness is what directly led to the situation here, but it's a problem.
posted by chinston at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure we'd have to find out he killed his real girlfriend before it affected his draft position. But who knows? NFL owners are weird.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, my God. I just had a flashback to an incident, one I hadn't thought of in years. While I was in football in high school, the other team members were all talking about their girlfriends. (Non-obscenely, if that makes a difference.) I didn't have a girlfriend but felt compelled to say I did, so I talked about a girl I was seeing in Santa Fe (about sixty miles away). When I was asked about her name, I used the first name that came to mind, "Annette Funicello." Fortunately, this was the 70s and nobody seemed to recognize the famous person with that name.
I wonder if this could have started the same way...
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:04 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Did he at least go to the moon, or was the moon landing faked too?
posted by vidur at 3:05 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Manti Te'o, October 22nd, on Twitter: Don't let your dreams stay dreams! Make them a reality!
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Doesn't anybody check these things out any more?

Once you go with Tebow, you stick with Tebow. The story works, consumers want, no, demand more and more no matter how far the "truth" has been stretched. Because they just can't get enough of the twelve or sixteen sixty-minute contests, which in themselves are equally suspect.

In this case, ESPN had yet another patsy to play into their religious-wackos-are-normal-and-successful narrative that a segment of the population needs in order to constantly validate their held beliefs.
posted by jsavimbi at 3:12 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I honestly do not even remotely understand the "he's secretly gay" angle that folks are endorsing here. Can someone explain it to me like I'm stupid?

It really seems a lot more likely that he played the national media for the suckers they are in an effort to win a Heisman.
posted by downing street memo at 3:12 PM on January 16, 2013


Well I think people prefer the gay angle because it has the potential for redemption, whereas it being part of goosing a heisman campaign marks him out as a psychopath.
posted by JPD at 3:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


But I still feel like their gadfly approach can be uniquely useful in covering the world of professional (and big time college) sports

Yep. When Deadspin gets their hands on a story they cover it aggressively and incisively (and profanely) the way other organizations never would for fear of losing their access.

I don't read the site daily the way I used to, but when a Deadspin feature starts making the rounds on the internet I know it'll be worth setting aside the time to read.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


We are are overlooking the most obvious scenario. Manti Te'o was a ghost all along.

What I'd like to know is who was phone?
posted by Ad hominem at 3:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Te'o issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."

posted by Drinky Die at 3:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


If they talked on the phone, who did the woman's voice? And why did he think (or say) he met her in real life?
posted by drezdn at 3:19 PM on January 16, 2013


So a fig leaf then, for fans who want to go on believing.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:19 PM on January 16, 2013


I don't know if I believe the statement or not, but is 'having a so-far Internet-only relationship' still such a shame factor among the kids today that one might not admit to it and end up creating a whole 'meet cute' story to cover it up. I would have thought not but maybe Laurie from Cougar Town really warped my worldview.

I mean, and I'm not trying to be a prick here, but if he's the good Mormon he always said he was, it's not like they were going to be doing anything anyway. Might as well say you've never met as well.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:21 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have nothing to say about this other than that I'm at a bar and ESPN is on, and the "Breaking News: Manti Te'o's girlfriend did not exist" is one of the weirdest things I've seen.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:22 PM on January 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

That was also how Peter Coffin tried to save face after he got called out for having a fake girlfriend online.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:22 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Breaking News: Manti Te'o's girlfriend did not exist" is one of the weirdest things I've seen.

The front page of ESPN.com is going with "Existence, death of Te'o girlfriend called a hoax"
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


(which I realize is standard headline-speak, but it did make me wonder if this story is making people question the nature of existence)
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2013 [43 favorites]


"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her."

Perhaps this whole thing is a sneaky viral ad for that Catfish show on MTV.
posted by zarq at 3:25 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Sarah Phillips was in on this, the internet will collapse in on itself.
posted by drezdn at 3:26 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I honestly do not even remotely understand the "he's secretly gay" angle that folks are endorsing here. Can someone explain it to me like I'm stupid?

I think it would go something like this:

Te'o is gay, but he's a Big Man On Campus. Why isn't he at least courtin' the Mormon ladies? Doesn't he need to settle down with a nice girl soon? Oh, he has a girlfriend who lives in Canada California. Her name is Lennay. All his friends know about this girl, and his parents find out, and the lie gets deeper. Then a reporter looking for a human interest story hears, and he can't or won't extricate himself. The salacious twist would be that the guy running the Kekua account is really his lover.

but is 'having a so-far Internet-only relationship' still such a shame factor among the kids today that one might not admit to it and end up creating a whole 'meet cute' story to cover it up.

It's not 'kids today', it's the press that Te'o has to worry about. I think what makes this whole thing super-bizarre is that it has played out on the national stage, not some small internet forum.
posted by muddgirl at 3:27 PM on January 16, 2013


My wild speculation is that the person whose photo was used for the sister's twitter account was in on the hoax with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
posted by drezdn at 3:29 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


it did make me wonder if this story is making people question the nature of existence)

BREAKING: TE'O GIRLFRIEND FAKE, NOTHING IS REAL, ALL IS PERMITTED, MAKE UP A FAKE GIRLFRIEND SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW
posted by Greg Nog at 3:30 PM on January 16, 2013 [56 favorites]


I honestly do not even remotely understand the "he's secretly gay" angle that folks are endorsing here. Can someone explain it to me like I'm stupid?

Guy has a boyfriend but his conservative family won't accept it and his career (in a fairly regressive industry) puts him in the public eye. He and this boyfriend conspire together to say that the boyfriend is a girl. They're able to tweet loving things to one another and he's able to talk on the phone with him and go out to visit with him by letting his parents believe it's really a woman. The boyfriend (in this case, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo) might even have a "real" twitter account where they're able to acknowledge one another in a bromance sorta friendly way in public--which would let Manti Te'o claim that they're nothing but just friends--while exchanging messages like "I miss you!" and other loveydovey stuff under the beard account.

Why they'd have to fake her death, I don't know. But the rest fits into this narrative pretty well.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:30 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I honestly do not even remotely understand the "he's secretly gay" angle that folks are endorsing here.

It's been pretty much explained above -- but there's the other thing that pretty much EVERY closted professional athlete who has come out after retirement speaks about how it was necessary not just to not be gay but to be actively straight, either with a real or imaginary girlfriend. If you were a naive kid following the rule book of How This Was Done Before, this would be a step. (I'm not sure a buy it in this situation, but it sure wouldn't be the strangest thing about the whole mess.)

The front page of ESPN.com is going with "Existence, death of Te'o girlfriend called a hoax"

I just love the obvious thought process at work here:

Well, if we go with "Death of Te's girlfriend called a hoax" then people will think she's alive. But if we go with "Te'o girlfriend existence questioned" everyone will be all "Who?" until they realize "Oh, the dead one."

The result is almost poetic in what it says about culture in 8 words.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:34 PM on January 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


If they talked on the phone, who did the woman's voice? And why did he think (or say) he met her in real life?

There is software that can pretty convincingly change the pitch of your voice. A sufficiently dedicated male hoaxer might go that far. A female participant in the hoax does seem more likely, if we are going to take Te'o at his word that he wasn't involved.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Te'o wasn't in on it, killing the fake girlfriend on the same day his grandmother died is either horrible timing or the biggest dick move of all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:36 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


She just tweeted
posted by Ad hominem at 3:37 PM on January 16, 2013


She just tweeted

The old account was deleted, someone just remade it.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:38 PM on January 16, 2013


The timing makes more sense if he is in on it, because of the morbid 2 for 1 nature of it. Either way, this story is nuts. I am confident that what the kid needs is not the 24/7 media freakout he is going to get.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:38 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two other relieved folks today in the sports world:

The Heisman committee
Lance Armstrong
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:38 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I honestly do not even remotely understand the "he's secretly gay" angle that folks are endorsing here. Can someone explain it to me like I'm stupid?

He's Mormon, and current pop culture demands that all stories about famous Mormons include either closeted gay Mormons or out gay ex-Mormons. Ideally, there would be a likeable, reasonable, out ex-Mormon to contrast with the creepy closeted Mormon who insists that he has overcome his homosexuality through faith or some nonsense like that. Think of it as progress. It wasn't too long ago that Mormon plus liar equaled Ted Bundy or somebody putting bombs in mailboxes. If the church ever gets past its discrimination against homosexuals, then we can move on to suspecting that every famous Mormon must secretly be a coffee drinker or something.

And after having said all that, I must admit that I started to wonder, as well, when I got to the part of the Deadspin article about Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and how close he is with Te'o combined with the allegations that he's the one who faked the girlfriend's existence. But I wonder how much of that has to do with the way the allegations are presented in the article.
posted by The World Famous at 3:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


In pop culture's defense, I think we suspect that every devout Christian dude is gay. Tim Tebow, for example.
posted by muddgirl at 3:45 PM on January 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Te'o is gay, but he's a Big Man On Campus. Why isn't he at least courtin' the Mormon ladies? Doesn't he need to settle down with a nice girl soon? Oh, he has a girlfriend who lives in Canada California. Her name is Lennay. All his friends know about this girl, and his parents find out, and the lie gets deeper. Then a reporter looking for a human interest story hears, and he can't or won't extricate himself. The salacious twist would be that the guy running the Kekua account is really his lover.

This makes sense if he didn't actively parlay the cover relationship into significant media coverage and adulation. But, of course, he did.

If dude had a fake girlfriend to cover up a gay relationship but just acted normal about it, didn't kill her off, and didn't make her a major part of his story, I'd be on board. But he gained a lot from this and for most of last fall it worked.
posted by downing street memo at 3:48 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it really makes sense in either case.
posted by muddgirl at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2013


The total scam story Manti is spinning doesn't really waffle either, though. He and his family say he went out to Hawaii to visit her:
"They started out as just friends," Te'o's father, Brian, told the Tribune in October 2012. "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."
and then later Manti retweets this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, he's a good football player and all, but he is decidedly not Heisman material. His stats almost uniformly came against weak teams (or teams that ended up being weak). He ended up finishing second in the voting. The voters are suckers for stuff like this, as the entire obsession with Tebow illustrates. You don't think he realized this?
posted by downing street memo at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's Mormon, and current pop culture demands that all stories about famous Mormons include either closeted gay Mormons or out gay ex-Mormons.

Wait... Mitt Romney's gay?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Left without further comment
posted by indubitable at 3:54 PM on January 16, 2013


I dunno. Most of me wants to laugh at every angle of this: Notre Dame, fawning sportswriters, mega jocks, etc.

But then there's still some chance that there's just a shy kid without confidence who got had in a massively embarrassing (and now very public) way.

I really hope it's not the case. Because dear lord, do I hate Notre Dame
posted by graphnerd at 3:56 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


SportsCenter is saying he was duped.

Story of Manti Te'o girlfriend a hoax, ESPN News Service, Updated 16 January 2013
“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”—Manti Te'o statement
posted by ob1quixote at 3:57 PM on January 16, 2013


The total scam story Manti is spinning doesn't really waffle either, though.

No, the whole thing is too bizarre. Someone is a psychopath here.

SportsCenter is saying he was duped.

Because SportsCenter loses their access to Te'o if they don't.
posted by muddgirl at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The person whose photo was used said in the Deadspin piece that Tuiasosopo asked her for her photo holding a call-out sign, which she gave him, and then was surprised to see it being called a picture of "Lennay Kakua". I suppose that could be a lie, but why?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2013


By the way, I would dearly love to see a play or a miniseries or something that reenacted all the possible explanations of this scenario --- same actors, same sets, just in one they're sketchy mofos cynically plotting to win a Heisman and in the other the cousin is running the Spanish Prisoner on the player in order to blackmail him later, and in the last one they're two star-crossed lovers whose little white lie becomes the sports story of the year....
posted by Diablevert at 4:04 PM on January 16, 2013 [28 favorites]


Reference
posted by gimonca at 4:04 PM on January 16, 2013


They should have named her "Georgina Glass."
posted by discopolo at 4:04 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I completely can understand the dupe angle. I can see how Manti, victim of a dupe, would make up stories to tell his family and others about meeting this friend to cover-up and avoid the questions "how can you be dating/in love, with someone you never met?" The family believes his white lies and re-tells them.

I'm just not going to buy the gay/sociopath because we have no other evidence to suggest either of those. In fact, all the evidence is to the contrary on the sociopath front. And if he was gay, he would not have fallen in love with this girl. So the "being gay" angle requires him to be in on it, and again, I see no reason to think he is this reckless, sociopathic and foolish. Everyone else speaks very highly of him.

So, barring some evidence to the contrary, I'm going to go with a guy who gets duped and has his trusting nature exploited. That's more in line with everything else I have read about the guy.
posted by dios at 4:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Though it was a very romantic story. Warmed up my little heart. Hawaii, a faithful and broad-shouldered boyfriend, a girlfriend at Stanford, Hawaii.

Did I mention Hawaii? Le sigh....
posted by discopolo at 4:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think T'eo was lying about the face to face relationship with the girlfriend but at the same time did not realize (at first) that said girlfriend did not actually exist. T'eo was hamstringed when he figured it out because to expose the real con, he'd have own up to his original lies.

I'm betting that there was some spirited discussion between T'eo and Ronaiah regarding the circumstances surrounding her "death".
posted by klarck at 4:08 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait... Mitt Romney's gay?

If it will convince someone to vote for him, sure.
posted by The World Famous at 4:09 PM on January 16, 2013 [42 favorites]


ESPN now claims to have known this for 10 days, but was unable to confirm. In other news, please send your condolences to ESPN, whose girlfriend recently passed.
posted by acidic at 4:10 PM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


On the otherhand, anything you've read about the guy was written by people who took the girlfriend story at face value.
posted by drezdn at 4:10 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real shit is about to come out and hit the fan. Lennay was pregnant and was going to get an abortion.
posted by perhapses at 4:11 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


But then the doctor was like, "Hey, there's no baby in there!"
posted by gilrain at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wait... Mitt Romney's gay?

If it will convince someone to vote for him, sure.


I know you’re hating the fact that it took this long for someone to hand you that setup. Where the hell were they a few months ago?
posted by bongo_x at 4:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I’m going with "duped and embarrassed, played along and tried to make it go away"
posted by bongo_x at 4:16 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact, all the evidence is to the contrary on the sociopath front. And if he was gay, he would not have fallen in love with this girl. So the "being gay" angle requires him to be in on it, and again, I see no reason to think he is this reckless, sociopathic and foolish.

If he was gay, there was no girl. He fell in love with a guy, and said it was a girl. Which wouldn't be sociopathic at all, but fairly understandable given his background and work culture.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:19 PM on January 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have little to add about other aspects of the story, but re "is 'having a so-far Internet-only relationship' still such a shame factor among the kids today that one might not admit to it and end up creating a whole 'meet cute' story to cover it up."

Yeah, it totally is, especially if your peer group is very prescriptive about social norms (sports teams, certain college programs). Dating sites like OKCupid might be seen as slightly less sketchy these days, but being in a relationship with someone you've only communicated with on the internet and who lives far away is an entirely different beast. It's not shame and ostracism, thankfully, but I've heard a fair amount of "did you hear that so-and-so is in a relationship with someone they've never met omg" and it's uncomfortable enough that I can see why someone in that situation would want to avoid the smack talk, even without the national media attention.

In my particular instance, most of my friends took it fairly well, some were jerks who had to be gently corrected, and for the random well-meaning colleague I found it easier to just say my partner and I had mutual friends (which is literally true) and let them draw their own conclusions. Even now that we live together, new acquaintances are often visibly dismayed if they find out that we first met online while we were 1,000 miles apart.

Not that it's justification for concocting a fictional original story, but I just wanted to say, people are judgmental shits, man.
posted by Phire at 4:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Last week she was here, but she had leukemia
Too bad!
'Cause I wanted to introduce her to you,
It's so sad!
There wasn't a thing that she could do
But stay in bed
Coughing blood until she was dead!
posted by nicebookrack at 4:43 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


ESPN now claims to have known this for 10 days, but was unable to confirm.

I believe that. It took the Deadspin story a while to get to something I would consider evidence rather than just a lack of evidence.
posted by smackfu at 4:45 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


i got a girlfriend that's better that this
and you don't remember at all
as we get older and stop making sense
you won't find her waiting long
stop making sense, stop making sense...stop making sense, making sense
i got a girlfriend that's better than that
and nothing is better that this
( is it? )
posted by perhapses at 4:46 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If he was gay, there was no girl. He fell in love with a guy, and said it was a girl. Which wouldn't be sociopathic at all, but fairly understandable given his background and work culture.

I disagree. True, gay men may pretend to or have girlfriends to hide being gay.

But gay men don't go to this length of creating public and attention-garnering disinformation to draw attention to their non-existent cover girlfriend. Indeed, they try to avoid and de-emphasize. Not flaunt the fake story.

To come up with this, one would have to be a sociopath. Watch the ESPN story in which he talks (apparently) sincerely about her. You don't pull that off unless you are a sociopath.

And that is completely contrary to everything I have read about this guy and what his teammates say. One would think a sociopath capable of trying to pull this off would be evident in other regards.

The gay angle makes much less sense than the dupe angle, though I am not surprised some people are advancing it.
posted by dios at 4:53 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


is 'having a so-far Internet-only relationship' still such a shame factor among the kids today that one might not admit to it and end up creating a whole 'meet cute' story to cover it up.

Absolutely. My pretty internet-confident 22yo sister seriously asked me recently if she should stage an intervention for my cousin who had mentioned she was going on a date with someone off OkCupid.
posted by jacalata at 4:58 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


So did this makeup girl affect his self-esteem?
posted by srboisvert at 5:01 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I don't know how it is for Football Stars but it is pretty common to Skype or FaceTime. How long could he really be fooled? Surely he would try to get her on cam, just to say hello, before he told his parent or alerted the media. How many pics did the hoaxer get from that acquaintance? One personalized and maybe a few more from her Facebook? That isn't very convincing. No pics wearing a Stanford hoodie? No pics hanging out on the Quad? Then there are the phone conversations, did he speak to her on the phone at all?

I'm just having trouble believing he told his parents and the media before he even got her on video chat, or even asked her to hold up something with the date on it.

I know you guys are going to say "who does that, have someone hold up a newspaper like something out of Proof Of Life" but this is someone he met in twitter. He is either the most trusting person who ever lived, or he made half this shit up.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:03 PM on January 16, 2013


I would dearly love to see a play or a miniseries or something that reenacted all the possible explanations of this scenario

Variation Three

LENNAY: Funny, I always thought it was a car accident.

MANTI: Leukemia! Leukemia! HAVE YOU GOTTEN THAT YET?

(LENNAY dies.)

(Bell.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:06 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't pull that off unless you are a sociopath.

If Te'o made up the whole thing, this is true no matter what the impetus, no? I don't know why fake-girlfriend-to-cover-gay-relationship requires more of a sociopath than fake-girlfriend-to-win-Heisman.
posted by muddgirl at 5:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know you guys are going to say "who does that, have someone hold up a newspaper like something out of Proof Of Life" but this is someone he met in twitter. He is either the most trusting person who ever lived, or he made half this shit up.

Watch a couple episodes of Catfish on MTV. It is amazing the justifications people will believe when it comes to an Internet relationship. "She doesn't have a cell phone" was one of the ones I was particularly floored by.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


being in a relationship with someone you've only communicated with on the internet and who lives far away is an entirely different beast

Indeed, and not just among kids. I'll admit, sometimes I read AskMe threads about Internet relationships and I blink twice. It reminds me just how far removed the MetaFilter culture is from the culture that I'm familiar with, to see how casually people here refer to relationships that transpire solely through email and online interactions. I still assume that a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" is somebody you've met face-to-face.

And if I think that way, having paid the five bucks to post here...well.
posted by cribcage at 5:08 PM on January 16, 2013


Reading the Deadspin article, I wasn't convinced he was in on it, it just seemed like too much of a leap of logic, but then it definitely looks like he milked this story for all its worth to promote his "brand", but after reading this thread, I'm starting to come around to the side of him being in on it. There's no way someone could be duped for that long, even knowing the whole story behind the Kaycee Nichole thing where the people involved were duped for quite a while.

I don't know where the gay stuff comes from, it seems like a weird sideshow idea to me, but it seems like gunning for that possible heisman trophy is the real reason anyone would perpetuate the lie for so long.

Hopefully, the sports press doesn't just shuffle this under the rug and we get a tough interview with him where he gets pressed on this "I was merely duped" angle. But how possible is that? Won't he just go into hiding now until next season?
posted by mathowie at 5:09 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If she was his beard, and he was in on it, why fake her death?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notre Dame official now saying its investigators were able to "discover online chatter among the perpetrators" that supports the theory that Manti was not behind it.
posted by sallybrown at 5:18 PM on January 16, 2013


Notre Dame official now saying its investigators

The fathers are lurking /b now?
posted by jsavimbi at 5:19 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yet, Notre Dame official surprising leaving out any mention of the fact that Te'o knew relationship was fake before Heisman ceremony, still didn't own up to it. Livestrong, you ND fools.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:21 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


no woman, no cry
posted by mordacil at 5:22 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


So if he didn't figure it out until December 26, what tipped him off then?
posted by sallybrown at 5:23 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe the car crash and leukemia was an excuse for something, like why she couldn't visit. I guess leukemia is like a gun in the first act, it's going to have to go off. You can't just dump your girlfriend who is dying of leukemia. I can see how it could have escalated out of control, but not how it started.

Guess I'll wait for the ESPN 30 for 30 in 10 years.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:23 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm shocked to see this story coming out of Notre Dame, never a place to build elaborate outsized mythologies out of whole cloth.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:26 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


>>I know you guys are going to say "who does that, have someone hold up a newspaper like something out of Proof Of Life" but this is someone he met in twitter. He is either the most trusting person who ever lived, or he made half this shit up.

Watch a couple episodes of Catfish on MTV. It is amazing the justifications people will believe when it comes to an Internet relationship. "She doesn't have a cell phone" was one of the ones I was particularly floored by.


Yeah, I'm with Rock Steady --- I mean, flip the script and which sounds more likely: "This person I met on twitter happens to not have a cell phone" vs. "This person I met on twitter who I've been talking to for weeks and who sends me pictures of themselves is not actually a person but really part of an elaborate plot to dupe me."

Plus there's the huge psychological sunk costs --- in a catfish scenario, this is someone you feel a great deal of affection, even love for, that you've shared your life with --- given that that's the case, which conclusion is less emotionally devastating: a) "my girlfriend is a little hard to get in touch with sometimes, she's kind of touchy in about some weird stuff" or b) "my girlfriend does not exist and I have been played for a fool this entire time." The deeper you go, the longer it goes on, the more painful it becomes to stop believing.
posted by Diablevert at 5:28 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The gay angle notwithstanding, here's how I think it went down:

He strikes up an online friendship with this "girl" that turns into an emotionally-intimate correspondence. By the time he realizes it's just his friend messing with him, it's too late to pretend it never happened. He's told someone else about her, maybe his own parents, and now it's just easier to keep up the charade than to think about all the ugliness that will ensue when the lies finally unravel.

Repeat several times. Every time someone new learns that Te'o has a girlfriend, he has to decide whether it's worth it, but it all happens so gradually that the incremental escalation of the hoax is easier for him to stomach than the alternative. But if he keeps up the story, eventually people will figure out that this is just a Canadian Girlfriend, so he has to invent (or have Ronaiah invent) a twitter profile for the fake girl.

Then, finally, his parents find out that the girl was never real, that this is a massive charade that grew from a small joke played by Ronaiah, and it's too late to pretend the girl never existed — hell, she's on Twitter. So, after a giant consultation between Te'o, his family, and Ronaiah, they decide the easiest way to get rid of it is to kill off the fictional girlfriend, and to do so as neatly as possible. The grandmother dying gives them a window to kill off the girlfriend, because then Te'o doesn't have to pretend to grieve a second time.

Because the relationship is publicly known, the death has to be, too — which means that reporters have to ask questions, and so the family comes up with a story, and Te'o's parents agree to tell a few white lies to reporters in order to corroborate the sob story. And then, with the exception of a couple of "miss you babe" tweets, the girlfriend is never mentioned again, and for a month or so, Te'o thinks he's gotten away with it.

Now, this is basically a sitcom plot, and as such it's highly improbable. But so is any other explanation, and this one at least explains why the parents are in on it, and how it could have been perpetrated without anyone (except for Ronaiah, perhaps) being a total sociopath.
posted by savetheclocktower at 5:29 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not that I'm saying that we know for sure that the "Catfish" scenario is the case here, just that I think that it'd be super weird to start asking random twitter people to prove their existence before you'll talk to them and that once you get past a certain point it's much easier to keep believing someone is a person than to stop.
posted by Diablevert at 5:31 PM on January 16, 2013


Notre Dame has investigators on the case? They can't be bothered to look into rape accusations, but are instead spending their time on this?
posted by Area Man at 5:38 PM on January 16, 2013 [27 favorites]


Watch a couple episodes of Catfish on MTV. It is amazing the justifications people will believe when it comes to an Internet relationship. "She doesn't have a cell phone" was one of the ones I was particularly floored by.

Yeah, I'm with Rock Steady --- I mean, flip the script and which sounds more likely: "This person I met on twitter happens to not have a cell phone" vs. "This person I met on twitter who I've been talking to for weeks and who sends me pictures of themselves is not actually a person but really part of an elaborate plot to dupe me."


Yeah, but it is more than just a cell phone. It isn't just one thing. No Skype? No Google Voice? Only a few pics, only one personalized, in a day an age where some people share dozens of photos a day?

I'm just saying in this day and age of online relationships , broadband and webcams couples video chat all day.

Maybe you guys are right, I'm just surprised he would become that attached and started telling people without ever having heard her voice or seen more than a few pictures.

Remember, he would have had to make up the lie about meeting her in Hawaii before he told anyone, if he was trying to hide the fact he had never met her. Lying to your family takes investment too.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:39 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If, at any point, he found out he was being hoaxed all he had to do was say "we broke up" and no one would ever ask about her again because no one had ever met her. The end.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:42 PM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


No Google Voice?

If it is true that he never ever spoke to her, not once, then I'd be more on your side about it --- that'd be a fishy. In his statement, however, he says he did talk to her on the phone (that was a big selling point in the pre-scandal sob stories too) and there's evidence that at least one woman may have been involved, the woman who briefly played her "sister" on twitter. Throw in a couple phone calls as a convincer and the con becomes a lot easier to swallow.

Again, though, just speculating. He could have been in on it from the first, it still seems unclear.
posted by Diablevert at 5:46 PM on January 16, 2013


Maybe you guys are right, I'm just surprised he would become that attached and started telling people without ever having heard her voice or seen more than a few pictures.

I'm telling you, there is a documentary TV series on this exact topic airing currently on MTV. It apparently happens all the time.

If, at any point, he found out he was being hoaxed all he had to do was say "we broke up" and no one would ever ask about her again because no one had ever met her. The end.

It's possible he didn't know until after her "illness" or even "death".
posted by Rock Steady at 5:47 PM on January 16, 2013


I'm telling you, there is a documentary TV series on this exact topic airing currently on MTV. It apparently happens all the time

I believe you. I can even imagine they came up with the meeting in Hawaii lie together, lots of couples lie about having met in a bar or through a dating site. I don't know why I'm so incredulous it would happen to a public figure.

the woman who briefly played her "sister" on twitter. Throw in a couple phone calls as a convincer and the con becomes a lot easier to swallow.

Yeah, that is true. But it is also another embellishment on his part. He said they talked for hours every night. If that were true that is a whole lot of dedication for very little payoff for the woman in the other end of the phone.

I feel sorry for the guy, even if it was a total fabrication from start to finish. There must really be something missing in your life if you are a star, and still feel the need to craft fantasy worlds for attention.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:03 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


So according to the US mainstream sports media, a fake Notre Dame football player girlfriend is more newsworthy than an actual Notre Dame football rape.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:16 PM on January 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


Sports Illustrated
These statements [from Notre Dame and Te'o] beget further questions. Who’s behind the hoax? How does the Tuiasosopo family figure into all this? Who’s really lying here? We have no idea what to think of any of this, but you’ll know more when we do.
posted by ericb at 6:20 PM on January 16, 2013


"Now we know who was sitting in Clint Eastwood's empty chair." *
posted by ericb at 6:23 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


NESN transcript of their live blogging of this evening's [8:00 pm - 8:49 pm] Notre Dame press conference with athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
posted by ericb at 6:30 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the imaginary girlfriend's family will be relieved to know that she's not really dead. Don't think it'll affect his football career, after all if Vick can run illegal dog fights and still return, this is nothing by comparison.
posted by arcticseal at 6:44 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think Te'o was in on the hoax, for this simple reason: the Deadspin article says that "most [of the photos] had been modified in some way to prevent reverse image searching." That is a whole 'nother level of deception and seems a bit too elaborate and pointless if he was going to be complicit in this.
posted by desjardins at 7:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd like to see Wired do a story on this eventually.
posted by drezdn at 7:13 PM on January 16, 2013


the Deadspin article says that "most [of the photos] had been modified in some way to prevent reverse image searching." That is a whole 'nother level of deception and seems a bit too elaborate and pointless if he was going to be complicit in this

I guess that depends on who else saw the photos and might've wanted to look into them. I'm assuming they were public and would've needed to be altered so people couldn't go looking for the person with reverse image searching.
posted by empyrean at 7:15 PM on January 16, 2013


As much as I'd like to believe the worst about Notre Dame, Occam's Razor says that Te'o was pranked badly.

Think about it. On average, a big-time college football player lives in an insular, football-centered world. On average, these kids aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, and struggle to get Cs and Ds in classes that require little or no work. On average, these kids are big dreamers and are naive characters, as evidenced by the fact that so many are banking on the NFL when there is such a tiny chance they will have a career there. Not always, but on average.

I find it a lot easier to believe that this was a big, immature, foolish kid who got completely fooled by a stunt that most people would see through in a heartbeat. And then ESPN and thousands of subway Notre Dame fans joined in to tell him how wonderful he was, making it all set in even more and making him question it even less.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd agree that modifying photos to prevent reverse-image searching seems like "another level" of deception. However, does it seem like a level worth elevating to if you're deceiving just one individual on a personal level, or if you're going to perpetrate a public fraud? I'd say the latter.
posted by cribcage at 7:19 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Te'o was complicit in the hoax for the publicity, he had to know that when the girlfriend's picture is displayed in the media, a bunch of people are going to know that the person in the picture is not dating a football player. Reverse search is a moot point at that juncture.
posted by desjardins at 7:21 PM on January 16, 2013


However, does it seem like a level worth elevating to if you're deceiving just one individual on a personal level

Maybe I'm cynical about my fellow internet denizens, but I can't think of an level that people won't elevate a prank to, if we're talking about lulz.
posted by muddgirl at 7:21 PM on January 16, 2013


Notre Dame does have higher than average academic standards for their athletes. The insularity though is ringing true to me.

Notre Dame Scores a First: No. 1 in Football and in Graduating Its Players
posted by Drinky Die at 7:24 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Te'o was complicit in the hoax for the publicity, he had to know that when the girlfriend's picture is displayed in the media, a bunch of people are going to know that the person in the picture is not dating a football player.

Not necessarily. I'm a pretty serious NFL fan and I had never heard of Te'o before this FPP, so I'd imagine that people who don't care about football would have missed stories about him as well—and people who don't care about sports are probably still oblivious. It's easy to think of the media as being a monolithic entity where everybody sees the same stories, but audiences may be more fractured.

If you stole my Facebook photo and started using it in the world of NASCAR, I'll bet it'd be a long while before I found out. NASCAR is a hugely popular sport but nobody in my social circle(s) really follows it.
posted by cribcage at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The gf dying the same day as the grandma is too much for me to believe this wasn't someone's sick play for the sympathy vote for the Heisman. Maybe his whole family? Who knows. Anyway, whoever's responsible is a huge asshole and should be rooted out.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2013


The guy responsible for the Catfish MTV documentary series on this sort of hoax has posted the following on his Facebook:

I am involved in this Manti Te'o story and working on getting to the bottom of it. I received an email from a woman claiming her image was being used as part of this hoax back in December but just now saw it. I am reserving judgment until more information becomes known. Stay tuned... #CATFISH


I smell an MTV special...
posted by SkylitDrawl at 7:40 PM on January 16, 2013


Well if anything good came out of this whole mess it's that I'm now addicted to another reality show.
posted by desjardins at 7:45 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Excellent reporting! I wonder how many of the media outlets that were duped will bother following up on this story.

Are you kidding? There's not a media outlet that won't cover this story, duped or not. Too big a story to ignore.

1) At any big time D1 school there are groups of the opposite sex that would date you just for being on the football team

Football players are worshipped on every level. That's one reason I don't see a chance this is as simple as a guy falling for a girl online. There's no need for him to be so involved with someone he never met. Got to me more to the story.
posted by justgary at 7:46 PM on January 16, 2013


So I'm wondering if he really didn't intend for this to be a media story, and suddenly a student paper did a story and he was over committed to the lie. Then not being very bright, decided to kill her off because it was getting too hard to keep up the facade. So he went along with the press coverage hoping it would all be over soon.

The main problem with this story is: why not just break up with her instead of killing her? Well I'm guessing she had this twitter account, she had friends etc., so he would have to keep up the lies for a period after the breakup so people wouldn't get suspicious. This may have seemed too hard since he just wanted it to be over.

Also if it was "cat fishing", what does the scammer get out of it? Why carry it on for so long?
posted by spaceviking at 7:49 PM on January 16, 2013


Football players are worshipped on every level. That's one reason I don't see a chance this is as simple as a guy falling for a girl online.

That's sort of insulting to athletes. Not all football players think every hot woman is interchangeable. Is it really inconceivable that a Big Name Player would fall in love with a woman's personality?
posted by muddgirl at 7:50 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


well he did go to notre dame which has a higher caliber of sensitive, unique player who hahahhahahahahahhaa no.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:53 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm inclined towards the secret gay relationship angle. If your family is asking to meet this person you're so in love with, then serious illness is a good way to put that off for a while. It wouldn't last forever though. And there's the confusion about when exactly she died - before or after his grandmother? It doesn't seem implausible that he killed her off then got news about his grandma then changed the one detail he was still in control of.

On the other hand, no matter how many girls flock to football players, there are just some guys who prefer unavailable or distant women because it's less pressure than someone who's willing and available. Especially when you're young in a hyper-masculine environment and pining for someone unavailable is more acceptable than being a late bloomer or gay.

I'd just prefer to feel sorry for secret gay lovers than hear about a cold-hearted grab for short-term glory.
posted by harriet vane at 7:54 PM on January 16, 2013


The more I think about this, the more I think Te'o was duped, and he lied about meeting the girl because he was embarrassed to admit it was just online. Especially if you're a big shot football player, the idea you don't have a real, in person girlfriend might make you a target of teasing, even if you're Mormon and could get points among national adults for being celibate. I've known so many people who feel they can't be honest about their online relationships because people are shitty about it, I imagine this would have been magnified for Te'o.

I think Te'o may have actually talked on the phone to Tuiasosopo, who was pretending to be a girl. I think maybe Tuiasosopo even used the fake girl to become Te'o's friend, but I don't know about the timeline of their friendship. But it makes sense.

Then Tuiasosopo asked "Reba," whose pictures he'd been stealing, to take the picture with the sign held up because Te'o got suspicious of why he could never seem to meet up with this girl, or video chat or anything. Tuiasosopo had given Te'o all kinds of excuses but it seemed like he wasn't going to believe it much longer, so he said he'd take a picture with whatever words on it he wanted as proof.

Of course, past that point it probably seemed untenable to Tuiasosopo to keep the relationship going, because he could only deflect for so long. And he was already friends with Te'o and it was taking up too much time, so he'd gotten what he wanted and decided to get out before it went badly.

Just a theory, though.
posted by Nattie at 7:55 PM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, we're 190-some posts in and I still don't see the actual story.

Someone who did't win the Heisman didn't have a girlfriend who didn't die. I feel like anybody who's discussed it at this point is a sucker for some sort of media shenanigans or another. Including myself.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:57 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


well he did go to notre dame which has a higher caliber of sensitive, unique player who hahahhahahahahahhaa no.

I don't know what Manti Te'o's school has to do with whether or not he or any other football player treates all hot women as interchangeable.
posted by muddgirl at 8:01 PM on January 16, 2013


The story element is pretty clear. He is a celebrity in a popular sports entertainment league at a top sports entertainment school involved in what looks like it could be kind of a scandal. The school and his personal reputation suggest high moral standards so you have all that fall from grace stuff that makes a scandal story work.

The information available to the public does not tell the whole tale so it is all ripe for all kinds of entertaining speculation.

A lot of people hate the institution he represents both for stupid (sports rivalry) and legit (not doing their job on rape accusation) issues.

I think it would be smart to wait for all the story to come out. Before when it was Te'o worship we had little, now when we turn him into a joke we have more but not all...just wait and see how this all turns out. We don't always have to take it too far into the tabloid stuff.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:08 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cardinal player says Lennay is real, and he met her before she and Te'o hooked up.

Curiouser and curiouser!
posted by misha at 8:13 PM on January 16, 2013


While ESPN claims that they've been on the story for 10 days, it's good to point out that one of the deadspin co-authors is a senior in college. New media y'all.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:26 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


By the way, I would dearly love to see a play or a miniseries or something that reenacted all the possible explanations of this scenario

I like it. It should be called "Rashomanti."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:33 PM on January 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


While ESPN claims that they've been on the story for 10 days, it's good to point out that one of the deadspin co-authors is a senior in college. New media y'all.

Yeah, point it out because the implications of guilt leveled at Te'o may not be entirely true. They also may be true, but I think ESPN would have reported the hell out of that once they felt they had done their due diligence.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:36 PM on January 16, 2013


It may be that ESPN was busy doing deeper reporting that Deadspin didn't bother to cover, and if that's true then I presume we'll see, but from reading the Deadspin article it's not apparent to me that they made any significant missteps.
posted by cribcage at 8:44 PM on January 16, 2013


I keep looking at the name "Lennay Kekua" and trying to make it into some clever anagram like "yeah no luck" that would confirm the scam once and for all. But I can never make it fit.
posted by savetheclocktower at 8:55 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It never felt like a chance meeting, although it probably appeared that way from the outside looking in.

Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.


Google cache of the South Bend Tribune's Oct 12 story about Te'o, Lennay, and of course Notre Dame. The story has apparently been pulled from the SBT website. There are several stories with somewhat interesting stuff in the comments linked from the front page, though.
posted by worldswalker at 9:07 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, we're 190-some posts in and I still don't see the actual story.

Someone who did't win the Heisman didn't have a girlfriend who didn't die. I feel like anybody who's discussed it at this point is a sucker for some sort of media shenanigans or another. Including myself.


The story is utter lack of fact checking by basically every single sports media outlet, either in a direct effort to bolster the Notre Dame fairy tale, or willfully blind to contrary evidence that would mess up the pitch perfect puff pieces that wrote themselves leading up to the Hiesmann and Championship game.

Sports journalists, and Pete Thamel in particular who first blasted the dead girlfriend story into orbit, are quick to santimounously harp and lecture in print for hours, literally hours every single day, about the existential evil of steroids in baseball or the demise of the noble student athlete victimless NCAA violations, yet didn't do even the most rudimentary part of their jobs as fact checkers in this case. The level of blatant, undeniable hypocrisy from the self appointed moral arbiters of all sports, and their tortured struggle to explain it all away while somehow holding on to their moral superiority, is the real story, regardless of whether poor Manti turns out to be the asshole villain, or just a naive idiot. That this happened in the most media-created, easy to hate from the outside, major college program around is just the ironic cherry on top that turned the sports internet community inside out for the next 24-48 hours.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:23 PM on January 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


Check this out--a guy found tweets from people who were aware of the hoax on Dec. 12 and that it appears T'eo knew nothing about it.

@justinrmegahan is the guy.

wow.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:34 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is also some woman named @ceeweezy51 involved.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 PM on January 16, 2013


Turn it Off! Like a light switch, there its gone!. Good for you!

Doesn't he realize being gay is bad, but lying is worse?
posted by formless at 9:50 PM on January 16, 2013


the tweeter @jayRahz knows something about this. he was tweeting for weeks about it and nobody knew it. He's fingering another person.

This is going to get interesting. Starting to look like T'eo was hooked into this and embarassed. apparently the guy who did this has been posing as this woman for a long time according to @jayRahz
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 PM on January 16, 2013


This big of a public humiliation along with someone who seems off-balance. Is anyone else worried we're piling on when someone should be on suicide watch?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:03 PM on January 16, 2013


Ironmouth, those people could be the ones mentioned in the Deadspin article here:

"We spoke with friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who asserted that Ronaiah was the man behind Lennay. He created Lennay in 2008, one source said, and Te'o wasn't the first person to have an online "relationship" with her. One mark—who had been "introduced" to Lennay by Tuiasosopo—lasted about a month before family members grew suspicious that Lennay could never be found on the telephone, and that wherever one expected Lennay to be, Ronaiah was there instead."
posted by crashlanding at 10:06 PM on January 16, 2013


This is going to be fascinating. I bet you're right, crashlanding
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 PM on January 16, 2013


"I don't believe it. Deadspin did some actual, honest-to-goodness investigative journalism."

I get Gawker and Jezebel hate, but Deadspin is the shiznit. Sportswriters do tend to be bloviating sacks of pretentious shit, and Deadspin skewers them good.
posted by bardic at 10:33 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I find slightly more interesting than the whole hoax business is that somebody could find the original story inspiring. Girlfriend dies of cancer, football player skips funeral to lead college to victory, says it's what she would've wanted? Truly an example for us all to skip out on our terminally ill family members.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:49 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I know of many people who were taken in by fake Internet girlfriends and I probably was too. I just never thought of it happening to football players.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:50 PM on January 16, 2013


That's the important lesson here, Charlemagne: College football players may seem like they are vastly more intelligent than the rest of us, but when it comes down to it, they'd just as likely to be staggeringly stupid and dishonest as you and me. You're a real person, right? I mean fool me once, shame on me and all.
posted by The World Famous at 11:56 PM on January 16, 2013


I never assumed football players were intelligent, or even sentient. I assumed they weren't possessed of the same desperation that lead to self-deluded fake online relationships.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:03 AM on January 17, 2013


What does he have to gain? Dick pics?

Dick pics of a pro athlete? Yeah, some people may go to significant lengths to obtain that.

Quite frankly, with the US media's, and in particular the sports media's, absurd obsession for "human interest" fluff, something like this was sooner or later bound to happen. Most humans just aren't all that interesting...
posted by Skeptic at 12:18 AM on January 17, 2013


Also, another reason I'm inclined to believe Te'o was clueless: if he and Tuiasosopo were faking the girlfriend together, why would they risk asking the woman whose Facebook pics they stole to make another pic? A person faking a girlfriend would only take that risk if someone suspected the girlfriend wasn't real and they had to give proof she was real. I don't think you'd bother doing the sign thing just for some random Twitter users. (I guess you could, but since nothing was coming of it, it would make more sense to sit on it. They could have collectively been nervous and acted rashly, it just seems less likely to me.)

That makes me think Te'o had to suspect the girlfriend wasn't real, at which point it at least makes some sense for Tuiasosopo to risk asking for another picture to use as proof, because it's important to him that Te'o believe the lie. Te'o might even have suspected it because of the tweets from the guy who had figured it out, if he saw them; the article just says "Reba" took the sign pic in December 2012, and the tweets were from December 2012, so it's hard to say what came first.

It just seems more likely to me that Te'o was deceived in the same way these stories always go, than Te'o and Tuiasosopo both made up the story for Te'o to get publicity in some convoluted way.
posted by Nattie at 12:58 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


who cares,...really WTFC!
posted by GreyFoxVT at 4:46 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assumed they weren't possessed of the same desperation that lead to self-deluded fake online relationships.

He is a top-tier athlete, groomed from childhood to be a top-tier athlete. There is no part of his life that wasn't carefully stage-managed by his family, coaches, schools and agent... and he still found a way around them to fall in love with someone he wasn't supposed to.

I'm sorry he was made to look like a fool and had his heart broken, but it makes me happy he took the chance. I wish the world had more silly romantics.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:47 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My new theory:

He gets tricked catfish style into telling everyone he has a gf. When he realizes he's been fully duped he (and his family?) decide to exploit the fake gf situation to influence his draft-ability and Heisman prospects by having her die of cancer as an inspirational story. From victim to perpetrator in quick succession.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:15 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: When he realizes he's been fully duped he (and his family?) decide to exploit the fake gf situation to influence his draft-ability and Heisman prospects by having her die of cancer as an inspirational story.

It's plausible, but the cancer trope is so common in these sort of online fake identity scenarios (Kaycee Nicole, the Catfish movie, etc.) that I would not be surprised if the cancer (and death?) happened before Te'o realized it was a hoax.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:37 AM on January 17, 2013


discopolo: "They should have named her "Georgina Glass.""

Or P. Tear Gryphon.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:00 AM on January 17, 2013


When this story broke yesterday I had a chat with a good friend who is a sports journalist at a major US newspaper. Paraphrased:

Me: Holy cow, did you see the Manti Te'o scoop that deadspin just ran? (sends link) Has all the warning signs of gay-mormon-cover-story-gone-wrong.

Him: Yeah, I just read it. Here's the Notre Dame official statement [claims Manti was the victim of a grift]

Me: OMG Notre Dame University is also a gay mormon?
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:20 AM on January 17, 2013


I keep looking at the name "Lennay Kekua" and trying to make it into some clever anagram like "yeah no luck" that would confirm the scam once and for all. But I can never make it fit.

For whatever it's worth (which may not be much), the person at this blog posted:
Lennay Marie Kekua

highlighting a few letters gives you
Lennay Marie Kekua
LE – UKE – MIA

The actual word “leukemia” is right there in her name. With one connected fragment in each word. There’s no way that’s a coincidence.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


As I recline, recovering from the flu, I decided I'd better see what MetaFilter had to say about this dead fake girlfriend story someone mentioned involving "Manti." This thread was pretty easy to find, but the other thread that turned up with "Manti" was also intriguing. It's entitled: MEAT STUFFED IN DOUGH
posted by exogenous at 8:06 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, except for the fact that it's neither LeukeMA nor MIArie... unless I missed something.
posted by Phire at 8:07 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


fuse theorem, I betcha that person also believes that Newtown was a false flag op.
posted by Mister_A at 8:08 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, this whole thing is bizarre and sad.
posted by Mister_A at 8:09 AM on January 17, 2013


There’s no way that’s a coincidence.

Actually that sort of seems like the definition of a coincidence.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:10 AM on January 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Whatever you say, (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (ARSON ARTS!!!!!)
posted by Mister_A at 8:13 AM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because there is nothing that the internet can't make slightly better and worse:

"Te'oing" is a thing now. Or trying to be. Imaginatively.

http://teoing.tumblr.com/

(The first and third are the only ones I'm really thrilled with.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:17 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now that my cover is blown, you won't be seeing me here again. [marches off to burn down buildings through the power of art]
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:20 AM on January 17, 2013


Sean Keely found some further interesting anagram evidence.
posted by activitystory at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


fuse theorem, I betcha that person also believes that Newtown was a false flag op.


As I thought about this story this morning in the larger picture, I thought wouldn't it be great if this example led more people to be more skeptical and not believe everything they read online; the Sandy Hook truthers (or more accurately those who don't necessarily believe it but say things like 'it makes you think') are what came to mind.

But it probably just means that this will somehow end up making more people believe we can't trust that anybody from Hawaii was really born there and rile up the Birthers all over again.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:26 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lennay Marie Kekua

highlighting a few letters gives you
Lennay Marie Kekua
LE – UKE – MIA

The actual word “leukemia” is right there in her name. With one connected fragment in each word. There’s no way that’s a coincidence.


Are you ready to have your mind blown?

Lennay is sort of a French-sounding name = "Le"

The most characteristic instrument of Hawaiian music is the ukulele = "Uke"

Nobody knows where Lennay Kekua is. She is missing in action. = "MIA"

The Ukulele is Missing In Action.

Open your eyes, sheeple!
posted by The World Famous at 8:27 AM on January 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


The name alone is so specifically unusual that whoever made it up made it easy to find out that that wasn't real. Plus, anagramming, geez. If they'd called the girlfriend "Linda Nguyen" (or hell, ANY first name with "Nguyen"), you'd never have been able to track her down as being a fake. Something generic would have been a lot better move for fakery.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:08 AM on January 17, 2013


Guy has a boyfriend but his conservative family won't accept it and his career (in a fairly regressive industry) puts him in the public eye. He and this boyfriend conspire together to say that the boyfriend is a girl. They're able to tweet loving things to one another and he's able to talk on the phone with him and go out to visit with him by letting his parents believe it's really a woman. The boyfriend (in this case, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo) might even have a "real" twitter account where they're able to acknowledge one another in a bromance sorta friendly way in public--which would let Manti Te'o claim that they're nothing but just friends--while exchanging messages like "I miss you!" and other loveydovey stuff under the beard account.

Why they'd have to fake her death, I don't know. But the rest fits into this narrative pretty well.


If this is what was truly going on, sooner or later they have to do something with the "girlfriend"...it's pretty common for family and girlfriends to be present at moments like the draft or award ceremonies for big name athletes.
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2013


The name alone is so specifically unusual...

...to white people.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:18 AM on January 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Manti Te’o’s Teammates Had Their Doubts About Lennay Kekua
posted by Chrysostom at 9:31 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


This sounds like a Coen Brothers movie: it's got a cover-up murder (or "murder"), a pleasant regionalism angle (they're from Minnesota Hawaii!), a non-Christaian religion (I don't roll on Shabbos Mormon beard at a Catholic school)...

I can't wait for the awesome soundtrack with William H. Macy's picture on the cover. All I want to know is, who is Steve Buscemi playing?
posted by wenestvedt at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2013


Now being reported on the BBC.
posted by arcticseal at 9:47 AM on January 17, 2013


The name alone is so specifically unusual that whoever made it up made it easy to find out that that wasn't real.

What were Manti Te'o and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo thinking, making up an unusual name like "Lennay Kekua"?

Anyway, apparently it wasn't that easy for people to figure it that a Stanford student who had leukemia and died in a recent car crash wasn't real, unusual name or not.
posted by leopard at 9:57 AM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


fuse theorem, I betcha that person also believes that Newtown was a false flag op.

Could be. There's some other stuff on that blog about a famous talk show host which could make you wonder where the guy's coming from. Whatever, unless the blog poster was deliberately being sarcastic, I thought it was funny that he acted like he had figured it all out with the Obvious Clue!
posted by fuse theorem at 9:59 AM on January 17, 2013


We should have figured this all out when it was leaked that Te'o's Wonderlic score was the square root of -25.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


NBC News: 9 baffling questions in the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax.
posted by ericb at 10:33 AM on January 17, 2013


The Taiwanese animators weigh in.
posted by ericb at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


The name alone is so specifically unusual that whoever made it up made it easy to find out that that wasn't real.

Is it? After a couple of quick google searches, I've been able to find pages and pages of people with the last name of Kekua. And I can think of at least a handful of people I know named Lennay or an identically-pronounced first name with a slightly different spelling.
posted by The World Famous at 10:44 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"WHOA. I am no longer the most famous Mormon to invent an always-suspiciously-absent 'girlfriend' in college" @KenJennings

posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:45 AM on January 17, 2013 [18 favorites]


> The simplest explanation is that Te'o is a pathological liar who got caught.

Dammit, I had a secret girlfriend too. When I was 7. I met her in the woods. She was just my age and beautiful and had wings. Haven't seen her in quite a while (she stayed 7) but I still love the girl (or whatever she was) absolutely to pieces. I do have the sense not to mention her in interviews with the national media.
posted by jfuller at 10:49 AM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


From the Daily Beast: "America's least favorite allegedly rich guy apparently likes Deadspin. They do not return the favor. "
posted by theperfectcrime at 10:52 AM on January 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


A timeline of the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story.
posted by ericb at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2013


ericb: The Taiwanese animators weigh in .
Wait. Wait. I understood most of it, I guess. Where does Te'o buttchugging come in to the story?
posted by ob1quixote at 10:57 AM on January 17, 2013


NFL.com: Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax will factor into NFL draft evaluation.
posted by ericb at 10:57 AM on January 17, 2013


Outsports questions if Manti Te'o is gay
Outsports.com, which is the leading website on all matters relating to gay athletes/gays in sports, is questioning Manti Te’o's sexual orientation in light of the story about his fake girlfriend. The site had the following headline as its featured story on Wednesday night: “Is Manti Te’o gay? Girlfriend hoax has many people asking.”

In the article, Cyd Zeigler Jr. says he was bombarded “on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about [Teo's] sexual orientation” in light of the story.
posted by ericb at 11:03 AM on January 17, 2013


As NFL Retweet tweeted, ”If Manti Te’o ends up being the 1st openly gay NFL player, this would be the worst prelude imaginable.”*
posted by ericb at 11:05 AM on January 17, 2013


From the article chrysostom posted:

"it is well-known on campus that he has had relations with other girls during his time at Notre Dame"
posted by skrozidile at 11:15 AM on January 17, 2013


MCMikeNamara: We should have figured this all out when it was leaked that Te'o's Wonderlic score was the square root of -25.

Well, it's even more obvious when you remember he originally wanted to wear jersey number i.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:17 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Deadspin:
Here's Everything The Media Screwed Up In Reporting The Story Of Manti Te'o's Fake Dead Girlfriend.

Journalism, Scientology, and Manti Te’o: Finding the Leper with the Most Fingers.
posted by ericb at 11:18 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a fair (although diminishing) amount of sympathy for Te'o' right up until the moment the Notre Dame AD declared he was a Victim, and burst into tears on his behalf. I figured he was tricked and didn't know how to handle it when he figured it out and made a series of bad decisions (beginning even before he figured it out). As it's become obvious to me that he was milking the situation for publicity and to polish his ego/public persona, that sympathy was leaching away.

But to read how emotional the Athletic Director got and how he was more than willing to stand up for his player unreservedly and to place himself and his university on the side of so-called right was infuriating and enlightening. I think Te'o' thought he was bulletproof and that he could control the message. I think he looked around and thought, "Well, heck, this is a story the media will love - and I've already mythologized around the edges [the meeting, stories about their interactions], so a little more can't hurt." I really wonder when the last time someone said "No." or even "Really?" to him.

And on top of all of this, I can't help but remember that the AD and the Notre Dame footballing establishment treated the suicide of an actual woman in their larger community as an opportunity to blacken her name more than they already had because she had the temerity to say that she was raped by a ND football player and intimidated by other players to not say anything about it. That player didn't even miss a game of practice, while she felt her only way out of the situation was suicide.

Is it any wonder that Te'o' thought he could control the narrative and ride it to fame and fortune?
posted by julen at 11:38 AM on January 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had a fair (although diminishing) amount of sympathy for Te'o' right up until the moment the Notre Dame AD declared he was a Victim, and burst into tears on his behalf.

Bingo. He was so sad that someone punked Te'o. He lost his composure during a press conference and started crying.

This whole fiasco probably wasn't planned from the very beginning, but a lot of bullshit artists have gotten exposed the last day or so.
posted by leopard at 11:47 AM on January 17, 2013


Rapey jocky institution capable of only feeling the pain of one of their own members isn't news though, unfortunately. It's just pathetic status quo.
posted by marylynn at 12:03 PM on January 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Drew Magary just commented on the allegedly gay angle and it so clearly says something I meant to say that I'm copying it here:

The whole beard angle has been thrown out by a shitload of people and hinted at by Whitlock and Mike Freeman. If that were true (and again, we have no idea yet about any of the motives in this story), it would be the WORST way for an active athlete to come out. Just the fucking worst. It's the only explanation for all this that doesn't make Te'o look like a moron, but it wouldn't be the kind of confident, no-drama, triumphant coming out party that I think a lot of people would want for such a trailblazer.

The idea that the fake girlfriend is a beard is juicy and I think a lot of people WANT that to be true. But there needs to be a second Occam's Razor that states that the lamest explanation is often the correct one. And Te'o being a gullible idiot who went along with a hoax just because people seemed to like it is the lamest explanation.
(via)



(This happens a lot with me with Magary, such that I always feel a little defensive when people talk shit about him here.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:04 PM on January 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Via NYTimes:

It was clear, however, that both Te’o and the university were well aware of the situation during the onslaught of news media coverage during the lead-up to the Bowl Championship Series title game on Jan. 7. Neither corrected the record until the Deadspin article was published Wednesday.

I'm no expert on college sports, but this seems like it should warrant some type of sanction against the school by the NCAA.
posted by cribcage at 12:21 PM on January 17, 2013


This sounds like a Coen Brothers movie

Sounds more like a Spanish Prisoner con. They made a great, must see movie about it.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:21 PM on January 17, 2013


I believe Manti Te'o was the victim of a hoax.

Why? Because the same thing happened to me a decade ago.

I figured it out before my perpetrator could get around to the 'death / denoument', thereby ruining his fun, and ever since then, he has been threatening to sue *me* and refers to *me* as *his* stalker.

In answer to the question "How does a thing like that happen?", the answer is complicated. It happens the same way any other abuser finds and grooms a victim. The only other parallels I've been able to find are the experiences shared by people who have been through cult deprogramming. And yes, it's absolutely possible to have what's called a one-on-one cultic relationship.

It happens bit by bit. You're the only one who understands me. You're just so wonderful. Please don't show people my picture as I'm a private person. Stay with me on the phone while I sleep -- and darn, sorry if there's no sleep for the victim; sleep deprivation is an effective tool when it comes to maintaining the suspension of disbelief -- then comes the missed opportunities. Excuse after excuse for not meeting in person. (Illness, work, sudden budget problems, whatever).

Oh, and look. There's a 'twin brother' who spent time talking with Te'o's family. (Why yes, we sound alike on the phone, sorry about that.) I'll bet we'll find out that the 'twin brother' is the one who told Te'o's parents that Te'o and the girlfriend had actually met a few times and that this is the reason Te'o's family has made statements of this nature.

And the reason the media is now trying to scapegoat Te'o as a perpetrator of the hoax is because some of them added their own spin without checking their facts and they're interested in covering their own rear ends at the expense of this young man.

Like Manti Te'o, I admit to being a vulnerable goob about all of this. I'll own as much of this as was my fault. I should have been more careful. But unlike him, though, I didn't keep quiet about it for so long after figuring out what my perpetrator was doing. I started telling as many people as possible, immediately.

The upside of this, though, is that this activity, which now has a name -- catfishing -- is now receiving publicity the likes of which I never thought I'd live to see. In my own instance, nobody has done a damned thing to my perpetrator. There's been no enforcement of terms of service for his ISP, in particular absolutely no enforcement of that thing where they say "Don't use our service to commit fradulent activity". I don't expect that my particular perpetrator will ever admit what he did or be brought to any kind of justice or receive any mental help.

However, I'm looking VERY forward to seeing if anybody thinks whether Manti Te'o's abuser broke any laws, and whether any charges can be made to stick.
posted by Bindyree at 1:01 PM on January 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Since everything aside from the fake that there was a fake girlfriend is speculation, please allow me to throw out another possible reason why. What if instead of being a beard, there is a relationship being covered up that isn't acceptable to his family because of either race or religion of the woman involved?
posted by drezdn at 1:12 PM on January 17, 2013


And the reason the media is now trying to scapegoat Te'o as a perpetrator of the hoax is because some of them added their own spin without checking their facts and they're interested in covering their own rear ends at the expense of this young man.

Please. The media is also complicit in this nonsense but no one made Te'o publicize his imaginary relationship. How was he conned into making up a story about how he met someone who didn't exist?
posted by leopard at 1:23 PM on January 17, 2013


'Catfish' Filmmakers On Manti Te'o Being Duped: 'It's Plausible To Us' (VIDEO).
posted by ericb at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2013


Notre Dame To Staffers: Keep Quiet On Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax.
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on January 17, 2013


Of course the authenticity of the original Catfish has been challenged too.
posted by gladly at 1:31 PM on January 17, 2013


Drew Magary "answers" your Manti Te'o questions.
posted by drezdn at 1:35 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe Manti Te'o was the victim of a hoax.

Why? Because the same thing happened to me a decade ago.


It happened to a number of people in this very community on a pretty large scale, and some of those taken in were in such denial that they would hear nothing of it being a hoax, even after piles of evidence were laid out for all to see.

I have no problem believing that Te'o was a victim. No problem at all. However, I also have no problem believing that he knew he had been had sooner than he's admitting to, and glommed on for publicity's sake while he tried to figure out how to make it all go away.

It's embarrassing to admit you've been taken in by a hoax. I'm glad you did, though, and outed your perp. I wish more people would.
posted by MissySedai at 1:52 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please. The media is also complicit in this nonsense but no one made Te'o publicize his imaginary relationship. How was he conned into making up a story about how he met someone who didn't exist?

That's actually a really good question.

Nobody *made* me talk about my perpetrator before I found out he had lied, either.

I was telling people about my inspiring friend because he was inspiring to me.

My guess is that Manti Te'o did the same thing. He believed himself to be in love, and to be inspired by this girl, so he talked about her.

Like him, I had no idea I was lying to people. :(
posted by Bindyree at 1:52 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Either he knew back in September when he tried to send flowers to an imaginary funeral or whomever he asked to take care of that task also lied to him about the delivery going through.
posted by jamaro at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did you claim to have met him in person?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sometimes being able to identify from personal experience can yield insight into a situation that other people may not have. Other times, a similar experience can obstruct a person from viewing a situation objectively.
posted by cribcage at 2:15 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Two Days After He Knew It Was A Hoax, Here's Manti Te'o Talking About Losing “My Girlfriend”
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:18 PM on January 17, 2013


How 'The Simpsons' Explains the Manti Te'o Fake-Girlfriend Saga

(sorry, I'm kind of obsessed right now)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:28 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe Manti Te'o was the victim of a hoax.

You have to overlook a number of elements specific to this case in order to believe this. This is not to say that such a thing would be implausible or impossible in the general sense.
posted by anazgnos at 2:41 PM on January 17, 2013


I've had people look at me like I'm nuts because I have people who I think of as friends, who I've never met in person, but who I've had extensive conversations with. I've also had people who thought I was nuts for saying, "How about a meetup?" when I went to San Francisco a few years ago. The thing is, I'm a 40-something adult who is not going to cry himself to sleep if he doesn't have the approval of his peers.

But if you're a young college age guy with a schedule that's packed full to brimming and you believe you are in a sort of cyber relationship with a girl and your buddies are giving you shit about it, it's not hard to believe you might tell a little fib about it. Then your cyber friend "dies". Then you find out that you were being conned all along.

It's no stretch for me to believe that he was naive at first and then dropped into cover your ass mode after he realized what happened so he wouldn't look like a complete fool. For most of us, that's probably the right answer. Most of us aren't good enough at knocking down a guy holding a ball for anyone to give a shit if we had a fake girlfriend or not.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:44 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Two Days After He Knew It Was A Hoax, Here's Manti Te'o Talking About Losing “My Girlfriend”

Putting myself in the hypothetical shoes of a Manti Te'o who was, indeed, hoaxed.

If I found out that my dead girlfriend was actually some of my supposed-friends playing a prank on me, and two days later a reporter asks me about my girlfriends death... have I really had enough time to process everything that happened? Am I going to say, "No comment"? Do I even believe the fact that it's a hoax yet? (How long did it take in the Kaycee Nicole case for principle victims to finally process the fact that Kaycee didn't exist?)

I think the narrative as presented can be interpreted charitably towards Te'o or uncharitably. I dont' think either interpretation can be right or wrong at this point.
posted by muddgirl at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Really, the best case scenario for Te'o is that he's as dumb as a bag of hammers.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:11 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which would not be surprising to me.
posted by muddgirl at 3:13 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It cracks me up that the college which awarded him a degree and insists it holds student-athletes to a high level of academic rigor is arguing exactly that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:13 PM on January 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


muddgirl: I agree. The "duped at first and then kept lying" scenario, though in some ways it felt the craziest one, is seeming more and more likely to me, even after watching that video. But maybe I've just watched too many soap operas where the supposed hero/heroine finds themselves getting deeper and deeper into a lie that somebody else started and ends up just as fucked when it all comes out.

Sports Illustrated has released the entire transcript of his cover story interview with Te'o from September. Deadspin has helpfully got the tl;dr version if you aren't quite as fascinated to read the whole thing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:20 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the SI transcript:
SI: I can call Stanford and check. They have to have some record or note that she passed.
posted by drezdn at 3:25 PM on January 17, 2013


Also from the SI transcript (out of context):

SI: This is unbelievable.
posted by drezdn at 3:37 PM on January 17, 2013


We should have thought something was up when Te'o claimed Lennay had ran 3 hr marathons with Paul Ryan.
posted by drezdn at 3:47 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gladwell and Klosterman for Grantland.
posted by box at 4:00 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder if Manti has binders full of girlfriends?
posted by perhapses at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2013


All I know is Oprah must be pissed enough to release the bees.
posted by jamaro at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


If I found out that my dead girlfriend was actually some of my supposed-friends playing a prank on me...

Yeah, I'm kind of wondering about that. There's a couple motivations I can think of (assuming Te'o went into this wide eyed and innocent). There's lulz. There's I'm going to kill off your fake girlfriend the night before the big game and bet heavily based on what you think the effect of dead girlfriend will be. There's I'm going to introduce you to a girl that doesn't exist and then kill her off so I can be your buddy and then when you're making a shit ton of money in the NFL, I can be a hanger on and do a shit ton of coke on your dime (or whatever people who leach off of professional athletes do these days). There's the possibility of future blackmail (imagine he won the Heisman on this "sympathy ploy" and then this came out after he was a pro).

What am I missing here?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:10 PM on January 17, 2013


I wonder if Manti has binders full of girlfriends?

With a name like Manti, it'd be binders full of wives.

Too inside Mormon baseball? Eh. I had to try.
posted by The World Famous at 4:30 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just watched an interview on CNN with a representative from Deadspin. He said that (as we already know from their original article) Manti T'eo knows and is close friends with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the person alleged to be behind the fake online persona, and they have spent significant time together. Also, Deadspin mentioned (as we know) that both families know each other.

At the core of this hoax is something about the relationship between these two men. What it is, I don't know. I'm now on the fence as to whether they are/were romantically involved ... or simply conspired together to create a 'sob story' intended to garner sympathetic attention for T'eo's prospects for the Heisman vote and the NFL draft.

I hope we'll know more in the next few days/weeks/months.
posted by ericb at 4:31 PM on January 17, 2013


Sports Illustrated has released the entire transcript of his cover story interview with Te'o from September.

Deadspin: How Sports Illustrated’s Manti Te’o Story Got Published.
posted by ericb at 4:35 PM on January 17, 2013


I thought his name rhymed with panty until I heard it on NPR :/
posted by desjardins at 4:37 PM on January 17, 2013


Obviously, desjardins, you did not consult the pronunciation guide to the Book of Mormon (or grow up in Utah).
posted by The World Famous at 4:42 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously, desjardins, you did not consult the pronunciation guide to the Book of Mormon (or grow up in Utah).

Really? It's a Mormon name? I assumed it was Hawaiian. Fascinating.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


For me, "Lennay" makes my mind immediately jump to "Lenny". Which in turn takes me to Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley. Which then puts Manti in place of John Michael Higgins, as Michael McKean's partner in "Best in Show".

So whatever the reality turns out to be, my imagination seems destined to be weirder.
posted by Brak at 5:17 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me, "Manti" makes my mind immediately jump to "pageant."

I would pay good money to see the major news outlets start referring to this whole debacle as the "Manti Pageant."
posted by The World Famous at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize that the wisdom of the crowd thinks Te'o is either an overcompensating gay guy or a pathological liar, but I'm amused by the possibility that Te'o is similar to the pizza guy in this Key & Peele Pizza Order sketch.
posted by jonp72 at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


As someone who listens/watches sports stuff far more than I read about it (and not particularly Mormon wise), I was the opposite of desjardins; until yesterday I have no idea how I would have spelled "Manti Te'o", but it would have been really embarrassing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2013


Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, on the good guy/bad guy double standard in sports reporting:

To be honest, I have no idea what Manti Teo knew or when he knew it. And while I have a prurient interest in that story, it doesn’t really matter. But the journalistic bias that showcases itself with Forde/Thamel is much worse. If either member of the dastardly duo of deception is your friend, then they will write books with you, take public your leaked transcripts of players you weren’t able to recruit and break your stories when you want a nationally respected media member to be used as University public relations. When they don’t like you, they will travel to Birmingham, Louisiana or even Turkey to try and get the facts needed to bring you down. But hey, try to challenge them and you will be slapped on the wrist for not understanding the role of “objective” journalists. They don’t have bias because apparently they don’t care who wins the games. So this means they must be “objective” and simply “doing their jobs”, But unless objective means with a specific goal in mind or “doing their jobs” involves writing complimentary articles for those coaches with whom you have a financial relationship, go bar hopping or leer at Hooters waitresses at Summer recruiting events, then I don’t know how that term truly applies to them. Instead, what they are is no different than any blogger, local radio host or fan who is lucky enough to have a voice, but with the prestige that comes with a national media outlet.

Tony Kornheiser has often joked that for a writer or tv personality, the reason to get famous is in order to “help your friends, crush your enemies and get a good table at dinner.” And in today’s world of media “celebrity” caused by television and the internet allowing articles to flourish nationwide, such perks have never been made more available. For Pat Forde and Pete Thamel, any public embarrassment from this screwup will likely blow over. Their colleagues won’t call them out on it, and the only critics will be random bloggers or members of the non-sports media critics. Life will go on, as will their agendas. And in the end, they will still be able to do what they have already done. Because based on their status and recent work, they have helped create and preserve the myth of Manti Teo/Notre Dame, shed light on the supposed sins of John Calipari and the Honey Badger and will never want for the finest place setting the next time they visit South Bend.

posted by T.D. Strange at 7:00 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:19 PM on January 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


South Bend Tribune writer: Brian Te'o said Manti & his purported girlfriend met

“That’s again what I’m trying to get to the bottom of – what’s real here and what’s not? Is Manti a victim? Is somebody else a victim? Do I need to do my job differently when I’ve had multiple sources I trust confirm things? Do I need to go get a picture of a corpse?”
posted by worldswalker at 7:29 PM on January 17, 2013


"Do I need to do my job differently when I’ve had multiple sources I trust confirm things? Do I need to go get a picture of a corpse?”

What a bullshit statement. I wonder if he's trying to convince himself or us? Because either way Hansen knows better. No, you don't need "a picture of a corpse" but you could look for a death notice, an article about a car accident, a police report, or, hey, I dunno, maybe notice that you couldn't get a quote from a single family member of the supposed deceased.

But you didn't notice that because you didn't even try to contact anyone related to her; you focused only on the people in the sports star's life and how her supposed death impacted them. Which is informative in and of itself, but I'm guessing Hansen doesn't much want to confront what that says about him and his work.
posted by phearlez at 8:41 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can you imagine if real journalists used this excuse?

"Well, I talked to one police officer, and he said that the suspect is guilty. Then I talked to the DA and he said the suspect was guilty! Then this other police officer told me that she had heard from the first officer that the suspect was guilty. What more could I have done?"
posted by muddgirl at 8:46 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am surprised the fact checkers at a magazine didn't catch it, but "real journalists" print plenty of stuff in newspapers that is just common knowledge, and that they couldn't really produce a citation for.
posted by smackfu at 8:55 AM on January 18, 2013


@realDonaldTrump: Congratulations to Tom Scocca and Timothy Burke of @Deadspin for exposing the Manti Te’o fiasco.

@Deadspin: @realDonaldTrump Go fuck yourself.
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:58 AM on January 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


I am surprised the fact checkers at a magazine didn't catch it, but "real journalists" print plenty of stuff in newspapers that is just common knowledge, and that they couldn't really produce a citation for.

I think the fact-checking argument is a red herring. The part I find problematic is what stories sports journalists choose to tell. If you are writing a story and one significant part of the story is how a woman's death affects her famous boyfriend, maybe you try to include the voices of other people involved with this woman? A comment from her parents? Her brother? Her sister? If Manti Te'o used a faux girlfriend to get press attention, he was successful because the press was more than willing to treat any girlfriend of Te'o's like an object, not a real person.
posted by muddgirl at 9:10 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Metafilter was the first to call Kaycee and Givewell, but not this one? We're slipping, people.
posted by Melismata at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2013


If you are writing a story and one significant part of the story is how a woman's death affects her famous boyfriend, maybe you try to include the voices of other people involved with this woman?

Not sure why you think the reporters didn't ask to interview the family. Was that in one of the follow-up stories?
posted by smackfu at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2013


Not sure why you think the reporters didn't ask to interview the family. Was that in one of the follow-up stories?

Some reporters claim that T'eo specifically said the family didn't want to be bothered. Whether or not this was T'eo covering for himself or those pretending to be Lennay and her family is another story.

(Not that this excuses the lazy journalism at all, but I still understand the impulse not to bother them -- though it does mean that sports journalists have more sense than anyone who was anywhere near Sandy Hook.)
--------
We're slipping, people.

Well, for better or worse, if somebody commenting on Metafilter started claiming to be the girlfriend of a big D-1 football star/Heismann candidate, you better believe I would be all up in that investigation. Even before her leukemia-discovering major car accident. And I'm pretty sure I'd have to stand in line.
--------
“I Know A Liar When I’m Around One.”: Manti Te’o’s Uncle Comments On Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

Turns out, according to the uncle, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (who also told the producers of The Voice -- because OF COURSE there must be reality show angle -- that he was in a major car accident) also wanted to start a charity for leukemia for one of Lennay's (male) who had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed money to pay for his tuition at Stanford friends. As a commenter at Deadspin joked: Leukemia is the number one killer of Samoans aged 18 to 35. (Leukemia is Ronaiah's half-brother.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


who also told the producers of The Voice -- because OF COURSE there must be reality show angle -- that he was in a major car accident

Alleged Mastermind Of Football Girlfriend Hoax Auditioned For 'The Voice'
The alleged mastermind behind the Manti Te'o "fake" girlfriend hoax auditioned for NBC's "The Voice" and told an elaborate sob story to the producers.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a high school quarterback turned religious musician, auditioned for the upcoming season of "The Voice," according to Us Weekly. Before singing, Tuiasosopo told an elaborate tale about a tragic car accident, which "people now think ... is fake" in light of the Te'o hoax.

Via Us Weekly:
According to the source, Tuiasosopo told producers he and his cousins started a Christian band together and were on their way to perform at a youth conference in Nevada when they got into a "massive" car accident. He claimed a truck crashed into their vehicle, sending them flip-flopping all over the freeway. He also said doctors thought one of them might have been brain-dead, but miraculously, everyone was fine.
posted by ericb at 11:27 AM on January 18, 2013


Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre.
C. Pierce covers it all, including "serious" journos and Ws fake ranch and Reagan's constant fabrications.

http://www.esquire.com/_mobile/blogs/politics/lessons-of-manti-teo-011813

Oh, and NDcares about poor widdle football players and their fake GFs but not football players and their real-life female victims? I wish the entire athletic dept. could burn in their imaginary hell.
posted by NorthernLite at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2013


Cyd Zeigler, Co-founder, Outsports.com: Why Do We Wonder if Manti Te'o Is Gay? Because of Homophobia in Religion and Sports.
posted by ericb at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Michelangelo Signorile: If Manti Te's Is Gay
"If the Notre Dame linebacker at the center of the 'girlfriend hoax' story indeed constructed an elaborate cover story for his gay closet, as so many gay men do in worlds that demand they be heterosexual, the emotional jolt of humiliation and embarrassment at being exposed will be overwhelming. We've seen too many young people, particularly with backgrounds like Te'o's, growing up in the conservative, anti-gay Mormon church, pushed against the wall by homophobia and going to extreme lengths in denying their homosexuality, sometimes even harming themselves."
posted by ericb at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2013


Not to worry, everyone, TMZ has just confirmed that Te'o totally has a way hot girlfriend now and is in no way gay at all and he's probably boning her right now except not because of religion, but you know he wants to in an appropriately chaste way and basically nothing to see here, folks. Definitely not gay and definitely not some sort of girlfriendless loser saddo but a red-blooded all-American All-American.
posted by Copronymus at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which still is a much better story than the earlier gossip released to counter that rumor: that Te'o was totally doing it with women at ND even though he had a leukemia-having-girlfriend on the side.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2013


Not to worry, everyone, TMZ has just confirmed that Te'o totally has a way hot girlfriend now ...

Excerpt:
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 ...
Dating. But, just not dating a guy.

/wink/
posted by ericb at 1:40 PM on January 18, 2013


The leukemia story? That was to elude some drug dealers that were after Lennay.
posted by drezdn at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2013


Woman tells OTL that Tuiasosopo admitted to duping Te’o.
posted by ericb at 3:42 PM on January 18, 2013


In ESPN Interview, Manti Te’o Admits To “Tailoring His Stories,” Says He Wasn’t Convinced Lennay Kekua Was Fake Until Wednesday

We're so far through the looking glass on this one that if I woke up tomorrow morning and found a story telling me that the still-alive, totally-exists Lennay Kekua was going to be interviewed by Anne Curry on the Today show while Matt Lauer sang apologies, I'd probably believe it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:35 AM on January 19, 2013


So remind me again - why should we believe him this time? What's the evidence that he wasn't in on it?
posted by JPD at 6:39 AM on January 19, 2013


This is how NBC Sports characterizes the ESPN interview:
On Wednesday, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o issued a statement characterizing himself as the victim of a hoax involving a fictitious girlfriend who faked her own death. On Friday, Te’o submitted to an off-camera interview in the presence of his lawyer that, absent thorough questions or detailed observations regarding his credibility from ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, operates as a press release masquerading as an actual interrogation.

The initial story at ESPN.com is basic and short, and it offers no opportunity to scrutinize anything about what Te’o said.

...“When [people] hear the facts, they’ll know,” Te’o said. “They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”

Fine. So when are we going to hear the facts? And from whom are we going to hear them?
posted by ericb at 7:07 AM on January 19, 2013


It seems like the team behind 2013's most-talked-about Mormon is using the same media playbook as the team behind 2012's most-talked-about Mormon:

Vague, general or downright evasive policy prescriptions on some of the most important issues facing the country are becoming the rule for Romney. - Politico 6/24/12
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:11 AM on January 19, 2013


Really, the best case scenario for Te'o is that he's as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Well...maybe not necessarily dumb...but certainly naive. People really DO want to believe in others. Here, let me tell you a story. I wrote this in July, 2009, to explain a multi-day "disappearance" from a couple communities I am active in. I was not only taken in by an internet hoaxer, I was also the one who ultimately exposed it.

Quick backstory: I moderate and do research for a legal information forum. We get all kinds through our "doors", and a large number of kids seeking emancipation. Fewer than 1% of emancipation petitions nationwide are ever granted.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Blake.

At the age of 16, he found his way to several legal information forums, where he sought to learn how to become emancipated. His home life was shit, you see - his mother didn't work, her boyfriend was a drunk, and Blake was the one supporting the three of them. He desperately needed to get the hell out of there, but had no idea how.

He received some information at those boards (though the posts from that time period at Expertlaw were lost to a database failure), and was eventually granted permission by a judge to move out, since he was already supporting himself - not emancipated, exactly, but given permission to get out of there and not be dragged home as a runaway.

Time passed, and Blake remained at both of the boards he had joined, contributing to the communities that had given him guidance. People sort of took him under their wings. He was just a kid, after all, and trying to make it on your own is tough enough without being just a kid on top of it. When he was feeling poorly, the communities rallied around him, offering encouragement and support.

About a year ago, he really hit a very rough patch. One bit of bad luck after another left him in dire financial straits. He refused all help, asking only for prayers. Then an older poster convinced him to give her an address to which she could send small things - prepaid cards for cell phone minutes, grocery gift cards, and occasionally even cash. He provided his mother's address - they had largely reconciled, but he was determined not to move back home.

Cards were sent, thank you messages were received. For most of the year, it continued thusly, with various members of both forums sending things to help the kid out.

Then another disaster hit. And another, and another, and another, and the kid was pretty despondent. Some of the forum members convinced him to set up a PayPal account so they could help him out. He complied, but told them that they really didn't need to do that, he just wanted prayers. They ignored him and sent him money to help him get things sorted out.

And so it continued for another year. His 18th birthday arrived, and he was showered with well wishes and small gifts. He seemed cheerful and happy and continued to contribute to both communities.

But again, disaster struck and he grew increasingly despondent. He deleted his blog, prompting long time community members to wonder what the hell was going on. He finally answered their frantic missives, stating that he had simply been feeling terribly sorry for himself and deleted his journal in a fit of pique. He restarted his blog anew.

Life rolled on, and he occasionally mentioned in his blog that this or that situation was frustrating him, but that he was grateful for the prayers and support of his friends in the legal communities.

A few days ago, he posted a suicide note to his blog. No one knows exactly when it was posted, he had disabled the date stamping, but forum users who discovered it panicked, and the news spread like wildfire.

My inbox at ExpertLaw was crammed with pleas to try to trace Blake and make sure he was OK.

First I gathered information. Did anyone have his actual address? No. OK, his mom's address is a good place to start. What's her name? No one knew, but some quick sleuthing revealed it. What about a phone number? Blake's? His mother's? No one had either. Many searches and calling directory assistance revealed that the number was unlisted, but Boss is smart and Boss uncovered her phone number AND her husband's e-mail address.

Missy, they asked me, what will you do? Will you call the number or will you give it to us to call? What if Blake isn't OK? What if they don't know where Blake is?

Well, first, a call. I called the number Boss had found. There was no answer, so I left a message on the answering machine, explaining who I was and why I was calling. When the call was not returned in a couple hours, I opted to get law enforcement personnel involved.

First, I called the police department in Blake's mother's area to ask for a safety check. They refused, telling me the request had to come from another law enforcement agency. They told me to contact MY local police department. I tried contacting the Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol. No one answered, just lots of voice mail. I left a detailed message, and decided to try my local PD non-emergency number.

I went through SIX different officers, each asking me if I was stupid, what made me think they could help me? They didn't have jurisdiction in Pennsylvania! I know, I know, I explained, but the local cops in PA won't go to Blake's mom's to check on his safety unless you guys call and ask them to. Can't you just call? Dude posted a SUICIDE NOTE, for dog's sake! We can't do that. Is there any way you can help me find out how to get someone over there to check on him? NO, they would say, and transfer me to someone else.

The seventh cop was LIVID. What do you mean the local cops in PA wouldn't send a crew? Outrageous! When a citizen calls for a safety check because there has been what they believe to be a credible suicide threat, you send a damned crew! She would contact the local cops and yell at them. And she did.

Hoping Blake was OK, I e-mailed him and told him that he needed to respond to e-mail or PM or SOMETHING, because the cops were going to his Mother's house to see if he was OK.

An hour later, the Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol called me. The local PD is only a part time PD, so calls of this nature go to the State Highway Patrol. The Trooper on the phone was at the address I had given, there was only a 20-something year-old woman at home, and she said that she didn't know where Blake was. What was his name, again? Blake McGovern? I'm not finding a drivers license in the system for Blake McGovern. Did he maybe give you a pseudonym, ma'am?

Well, maybe, I allowed, and gave the Trooper a bit of background. He promised to swing by the residence every couple hours until the homeowners returned.

Ten minutes later, my e-mail popped up. Blake. "Tell everyone I'm fine."

I blew a gasket. No, Blake, not good enough, you get your ass over to EL RIGHT NOW and you check in with Betty and Cathie. Poor Bettie has been in tears all day, how could you go and frighten a little old lady like that, you asshole kid?

No sooner had I hit send, than my phone rang. Pennsylvania call.

The voice on the other end, warm, low, male, sounded a little irritated. My number is unlisted, he said. How did you get it? I explain who I am, and that we dug hard to find it, we needed to reach Blake's mother.

Blake? WHO IS BLAKE? OK, I need you to help me get to the bottom of this, he said.

I'm sorry, if I've gotten a wrong number, I do apologize. We're trying to check the safety of one of our forum users, he posted a suicide note.

I understand, he said. I don't know anyone named Blake, though. Blake who?

Blake McGovern. I'm really sorry to have disturbed you, I won't take up --

Let me stop you right there, he said, and tell you a story. A few weeks ago, on a Saturday, there was a bright yellow envelope in my mailbox, addressed to a Blake McGovern. Now, I don't know any Blake McGovern, I don't have neighbors, and it was sent to my address. So I opened it, because if it comes to my property, it's mine. It was a McDonald's gift card. So I used it. A few days later, my step-daughter started asking after "a package addressed to Blake McGovern, that's my eBay handle". And now, today, your message. McGovern is my mother in-law's maiden name.

A light went on, and a bell rang hard in my head.

We've been had, I said. I think so, he told me. I think you're looking for my step-daughter. She's well over 18. What has she been up to?

I tell him the tale from the beginning. He stops me at intervals, when I describe one of Blake's disasters. Happened around mid-April, yeah? He knew the timeline for every disaster. He'd kicked his stepdaughter out before for scamming, but when she was evicted in April, he mother insisted on taking her back in.

Blake McGovern is not a recently turned 18 year-old in need of a support network. Blake McGovern is actually a 24 year-old female with a history of scamming behavior and apparently a need of a shrink.

Where's this suicide note, he wanted to know. I had a sinking feeling when I typed in the blog address...it was gone. And because it had been so recently started and so lightly read, it was not in Google's cache, either. The Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol has the call where I'm reading it to the Trooper (at his behest). But it is no longer in tangible form.

She probably erased it as soon as the Trooper left. No one has been able to resurrect it from their browser caches. It's gone.

I called Boss and filled him in. What should we do with that account? He advised simply changing the e-mail and password so the account would no longer be accessible, but the posts would be preserved. Did I know anyone who had sent money? Had I? Sure, motherfucker got me for $50 back when "he" was in danger of losing power service. I know what it's like to be in trouble, and I'm a pay it forward kind of girl.

Contact PayPal, he told me, and report that account as fraudulent. Then contact everyone on the board that you know for sure sent money, tell them to do the same, and instruct them NOT to discuss this matter publicly. We don't need another Kaycee Nicole situation, our server couldn't handle it.

And here I am, today. I've got a trail of heartbroken users who thought they were helping a kid out. I've got a trail of law enforcement officers checking in for more information. Doesn't look like there's anything we can do to prosecute. She got a couple thousand dollars over two years from members of two forums, but because there was no coercion...but they're looking to see what they can do.

I spent all day yesterday, letting my work pile up, trying to prevent a suicide. Instead, I blew open a scam.

Her step-dad is willing to do whatever the authorities tell him to do. Who knows what the girl's mother is going to do?

I'm glad I don't live in that house.

I am exhausted and pissed and want to go talk to that girl with a crowbar.

So, how was your day?
I had FIFTY longtime contributors that I had to explain the situation to. They were all so angry, so hurt. And they were all people who were compassionate to a fault. You don't necessarily need to be a fool to be taken in by such things. But you do need an abundance of kindness and compassion, and it may well be that Manti Te'o was kind, compassionate, AND foolish.
posted by MissySedai at 2:06 PM on January 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


(Yes, I had been taken in as well. I sent the "kid" some really nice blankets after he complained about how cold his apartment was, but he had to be so careful about his heating bill. I was very sympathetic. As someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I am very sensitive to the cold. $100 in thick, soft blankets and $50 in cash to someone I had never met, because I felt sympathy for them.)
posted by MissySedai at 2:10 PM on January 19, 2013


We're so far through the looking glass on this one that if I woke up tomorrow morning and found a story telling me that the still-alive, totally-exists Lennay Kekua was going to be interviewed by Anne Curry on the Today show while Matt Lauer sang apologies, I'd probably believe it.

Bill Simmons calls this "The Tyson Zone". Like, Mike Tyson raises pigeons for fun? Oh, ok. Mike Tyson bites the heads off pigeons to increase his life force? Oh, okay.
posted by Diablevert at 5:48 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're so far through the looking glass on this one that if I woke up tomorrow morning and found a story telling me that the still-alive, totally-exists Lennay Kekua was going to be interviewed by Anne Curry on the Today show while Matt Lauer sang apologies, I'd probably believe it.

Will Katie Couric suffice?
posted by futz at 2:21 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diablevert: "Bill Simmons calls this "The Tyson Zone"."

This story set land speed records entering the Tyson Zone. I mean, the "Breaking News: Te'o's dead girlfriend did not exist" screen crawl was already in the Zone before you even heard the details.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:52 AM on January 21, 2013


Dead Letters: All The Hate Mail We’ve Received Since Publishing Our Manti Te’o Story, Tom Ley, Deadspin, 21 January 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2013


For some reason, seeing "Sent from my iPad" at the end of hate mail is hysterical.
posted by gladly at 7:42 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Face of Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend: Story is 'twisted and confusing'.
posted by ericb at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2013


From the NYTimes: [reg. required, or use incognito mode in chrome]

Some inside the network argued that its reporters — who had initially been put onto the story by Tom Condon, Te’o’s agent —
posted by rdr at 9:47 PM on January 22, 2013


Manti Te'o Admits Briefly Lying About Fake Girlfriend During Katie Couric Interview (VIDEO).
posted by ericb at 7:52 AM on January 23, 2013


NBC Sports:
The gist of the on-camera interview given by Manti Te’o to Katie Couric seems to be the same as the primary content of the off-camera interview given by Te’o to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. But the result is definitely being sold differently.

... The fact that Schaap’s interview didn’t create the same headline tells us all we need to know about the back-room back-scratching that resulted in ESPN getting to talk to Te’o away from cameras before he submitted to a televised interview with Couric, Oprah, or Dr. Phil. (According to the New York Times, those were the three finalists for the first televised TV interview, which is definitely better than having the first non-televised TV interview.)

... In the end, it appears that the Te’o camp played ESPN, and that everyone lost.
posted by ericb at 7:58 AM on January 23, 2013


From the NYTimes: [reg. required, or use incognito mode in chrome]

Install the "Ghost Incognito" extension and you can have every nytimes.com link automagically open in incognito mode.
posted by phearlez at 8:32 AM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


phearlez: " Install the "Ghost Incognito" extension and you can have every nytimes.com link automagically open in incognito mode."

Oh, AWESOME! Thanks!
posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on January 23, 2013


New post: It's a Samoan Thing. You Wouldn't Understand. (January 23, 2013)
Ilana Gershon is a professor currently researching how people use the Internet to break up with their romantic partners, but before that she wrote an anthropological study about "strategic ignorance" in Samoan immigrant communities, all of which is just a complicated way of showing that she's the most unusually qualified person on the Internet to comment on the Manti Te'o hoax.
In which we learn that not everyone has the same cultural upbringing, and some things that sound "off" to you are perfectly acceptable and normal to someone else. But that's the most dry way of summarizing the fascinating final link.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2013


Just When You Thought Manti Te'o Couldn't Be Any More Gullible
Yesterday news broke that Manti Te'o spent an inordinate amount of time — more than 500 hours — on the phone with the person he believed to be his fake girlfriend Lennay Kekua. According to the New York Daily News, the person Te'o was actually speaking to was Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the supposed mastermind of the hoax who impersonated a female voice.
posted by ericb at 8:39 AM on January 24, 2013


So Ronaiah Tuiasosopo spend more than 500 hours on the phone impersonating a fictitious girlfriend. That's a huge commitment to a basically pointless prank.
posted by The World Famous at 8:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe he was lonely IRL.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:38 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, one man's pointless prank is another's reason to live. Which is almost the most depressing thing about this whole affair. Or "affair" as the case may be.

And if I was straight devout Mormon attending a Catholic university headed for the NFL... well, let's just say if I had phone sex with somebody who turned out to be a dude, maybe I would continue to lie to my family, friends, and the media until I got caught.

Or even if that never happened, if you'd already lied and said you met her, what are you supposed to do? "Kill her off tragically" doesn't make as much sense as "break up with her quietly" -- but spending 500 hours on the phone with somebody you've never met doesn't make much sense when you're not that person either.

The end result of following this story so closely is realizing I wouldn't be a teenager/early 20something again for all the fake phone sex in the world.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's already talked about talking to her on the phone and then leaving the line open while they slept, so even if that only happened a few dozen times, that's a good chunk of those hours right there.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2013


So Ronaiah Tuiasosopo spend more than 500 hours on the phone impersonating a fictitious girlfriend.

Or he spent 500 hours on the phone as himself.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:45 AM on January 24, 2013


That's certainly a possibility. But unless I'm missing something, I don't see that there's anything to suggest that's the case other than speculation based on, as far as I can tell, nothing.
posted by The World Famous at 1:37 PM on January 24, 2013


Dude, it's ALL speculation as to what happened during those 500 hours of phone calls.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:23 PM on January 24, 2013


'I Was One Of Several People Duped,' Manti Te'o Tells Scarecrow Dressed As Katie Couric
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:50 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Manti Te'o Tells Katie Couric He's Not Gay: 'Far from It' - VIDEO:
"In an interview that aired today, Notre Dame quarterback Manti Te'o told Katie Couric that he's not gay when she asked him if he made up the dead girlfriend story to hide his sexual orientation."
posted by ericb at 3:22 PM on January 24, 2013


One of the most annoying things about conspiracy theories is that they cannot be readily refuted with evidence. Refutations are treated as evidence confirming the theory; controverting evidence is explained away.

This whole 'Manti Te'o is gay' thing fits this feature of conspiracy theories. It's based on rank speculation, and when it is denied, the response is "well of course he would deny it." If a female stepped forward and said "I had sex with Manti Te'o" it would only be proof of how much he closeted himself. Nothing can disprove the allegation because its not based on evidence. And some people seem more invested in being able to hang that label upon him then in figuring out what the most reasonable explanation for what happened.

It is all very off-putting.
posted by dios at 4:42 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about why I find the secret-gay theory more appealing that the more 'reasonable' ones. Those theories raise more questions, and they may never be answered. If Te'o is telling the exact truth, why did he fall for such a blatant trick? I've seen Catfish and I've seen similar stuff happen online - but it's still a puzzle. If it was a bid for a trophy, why make it so complex, with so many ways it could be found out? I assume it made perfect sense to Te'o at the time even if he regrets it now, but without knowing his reasons then to everyone else it doesn't seem to make sense or be worth the effort.

But if he had a secret gay relationship, then all the lies seem to make sense and hang together. It'd be nice if we lived in a world where a young guy in a hyper-masculine situation could just be out and proud, but we don't and most of us can understand the desire to cover it up. I don't think it's a desire to hang a label, it's a desire to have questions answered one way or another. Evidence is a secondary consideration to closure.

I don't think the 'reasonable' explanations are filled with evidence either. If Te'o was fooled, he still lied about it for a long time before coming clean; if it was for a trophy the lying becomes amplified and expanded. And Notre Dame has good form on cover-ups and putting the team's benefits ahead of the truth. So we're starting from a position of doubt rather than trust, which opens up the door to the weirder explanations.

Maybe you're seeing different, grubbier takes on the secret-gay theory than I am? I don't doubt they're out there. But mostly I think it's because people would prefer to think of Te'o as understandably gay than as confusingly idiotic, or confusingly greedily idiotic. I don't find it off-putting so much as yet another demonstration of the ways in which our brains try to resolve questions as quickly as possible, and will make do with the neatest explanation to hand. If the neat explanation lets us feel sympathy instead of contempt, that's a nice bonus. Perhaps one day we'll get a tell-all book with elaborate apologies and we'll finally understand why he fell for a fake girl or made one up to get a trophy. But most likely we'll all just have to shrug and say "gee, that was weird. I wonder what the full story is."
posted by harriet vane at 2:15 AM on January 25, 2013


If we're talking 'reasonable' conspiracy theories, isn't the fact that the "face" of Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend is a publicist way more suspect than any other part of the story? Why do we assume that she's telling the unvarnished truth and everyone else is lying in some way?

It seems to me that there's two kinds of reaction to this story, predicated on whether one things that people are inherently evil, or inherently dumb. The "gay coverup" conspiracy theory and the "publicity" conspiracy theory are based on the idea that people are evil. The Catfish, lone-operator theory is based on the idea that people are dumb.
posted by muddgirl at 6:24 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


All Football Players Are Suckers: An NFL No-Namer On His Catfishy Moment, Nate Jackson, Deadspin, 24 January 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 6:30 AM on January 25, 2013


muddgirl: It seems to me that there's two kinds of reaction to this story, predicated on whether one things that people are inherently evil, or inherently dumb.

That's exactly right, and fits with my personal outlook, which is that people are, while not exactly inherently dumb, they are certainly more dumb than evil.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:34 AM on January 25, 2013


As someone who was speculating that maybe he was gay, I wasn't doing it because I think anyone was evil, but because I think our society is awful and homophobic and because I have seen people in the closet lie in very similar ways. I don't think they were evil, either. I get the necessity.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:50 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Continuing to lie after the point of revelation, and painting your secret gay (hopefully ex-) boyfriend as a liar and a fraudster, is unthinkably cruel.
posted by muddgirl at 6:55 AM on January 25, 2013


Report: Tuiasosopo’s female cousin was voice behind Te’o hoax.
posted by ericb at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2013


People do desperate things when they fear society-wide censure.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:31 AM on January 25, 2013


I don't happen to believe in 'evil', but I think at this point it's splitting hairs. If Tuiasosopo was indeed Te'o's secret lover (which, again, I don't really have any cause to believe), I doubt he would find Te'o's desperation to be a very good argument for why his own life should be so ruined. How is such an act not evil?
posted by muddgirl at 11:41 AM on January 25, 2013


If you don't believe in evil why are you arguing this?

Anyway, you were the first one who said that people who argue that Te'o might be gay are doing so out of belief in the evils of man. I'm someone who argued that, and I don't believe such an act is evil but rather sad and desperate. It's an act born out of our society's atmosphere of homophobia and hate, not out of any individual's inherent lack of goodness.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2013


"Acording to the New York Post, it was Tuiasosopo’s female cousin, Tino Tuiasosopo, speaking to Te’o over the phone. "

Aw man, now I have to wait until next week to hear Jon Stewart rhyme Tino Tuiasosopo?
posted by NorthernLite at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2013


Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, Dr. Phil Interview: Alleged Manti Te'o Hoaxer To Talk On Camera.
posted by ericb at 7:20 AM on January 26, 2013


Dr. Phil: Hoax Mastermind Fell 'Deeply, Romantically In Love' With Te'o.
posted by ericb at 1:19 PM on January 30, 2013


Yeah, I'm kind of angling more towards an institutional oppression rather than "evil". And yep, if I'm right then Te'o is an arsehole for hanging Tuiasosopo out to dry like that. But I still wouldn't call it evil so much as selfish. I'm guessing (again, no evidence) that he was hoping it'd all blow over much more quickly. But when the media is hanging around hoping for an inside story from anyone with the slightest connection, that's a bit of a vain hope.
posted by harriet vane at 1:15 AM on January 31, 2013


Wait why is Te'o an asshole?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:32 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone still advocating the "closeted gay boyfriend" angle? It sees like maybe harriet vane is.

If so, then is plainly evident that you care not at all for the reality and are pushing that argument for your own purposes. Any rational person looking at this has confirmation that this was all a hoax perpetrated on Te'o who believed he had a female girlfriend.
posted by dios at 10:39 AM on January 31, 2013


Well, as has been on the horizon for a while now, this whole affair has completely shed its 'interesting sideshow' skin and has moved into the 'totally fucking depressing' phase.

On Dr. Phil, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo Says He’s Trying “To Recover From Homosexuality”
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:28 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I Invented a Girlfriend for Myself Because I’m Gay and Wanted to Play Football in College.
posted by ericb at 11:37 AM on January 31, 2013


Why, Why, Manti?—The Gregory Brothers
posted by ob1quixote at 11:29 AM on February 1, 2013


dios, I used to advocate that angle. Further revelations have proved me wrong, so be it. I was just working through what would have been the implications if I had been right, in response to some other discussion. There's no need to call me irrational or assume that I have some kind of ulterior motive that would be served by it. It's a) really rude b) unnecessary and c) puzzling - what kind of purpose do you imagine I had?

AHWO, I was only saying that if I'd been correct and Tuiasosopo was Te'o's secret gay boyfriend, it'd be cruel for Te'o to blame it all on Tuisosopo as soon as there was any publicity. I don't believe Te'o is an arsehole given what actually happened.
posted by harriet vane at 2:07 AM on February 3, 2013


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