This is what we want to know: Did Te’o see Couric dismantle Sarah Palin?
10:10 a.m.: Can we just say Saturday Night Live nailed it on their Manti Te’o sketch?
Sunday, 9 a.m.: While several parts of Manti Te’o’s story have been disproven, perhaps this one part is true: He did appear to send white roses to someone after he thought Lennay Kekua died.
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, however, was once again at the receiving end of the gesture, although a Kekua family did live on the same street.
9:17 p.m.: ESPN.com has released highlights of the interview Jeremy Schaap conducted with Manti Te’o on Friday night. If you have a lot of time on your hands, it’s worth a read, and it seems to document Te’o and “Lennay Kekua’s” entire relationship. Of course, we don’t entirely know if the former Notre Dame linebacker is telling the truth yet, but it’s a lot easier to imagine than before we got all the details.
Some of the highlights of the highlights are: Te’o claims he didn’t tell the South Bend Tribune that he and “Kekua” met at the Stanford game, Te’o legitimately did not know that “Kekua” was fake until Jan. 16 when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo contacted him via Twitter, there was an entire month of communication between Te’o and “Kekua” from Dec. 6 until Jan. 16, Te’o tried to move on, and when he got a new girlfriend the “Kekua family” started communicating with him again and Te’o said the relationship and aftermath did not affect his play in the National Championship Game.
From the transcript, Te’o comes across as a very trusting person, and if he is indeed telling the truth, it was his downfall through this situation. Fortunately, Te’o did not lose any money in the process, as “Kekua” never asked him for any. “Kekua” once asked for Te’o and his roommate’s bank account numbers to try to transfer money to them, but Te’o declined to give the information and told him roommate not to either. Te’o went to his bank on campus to see if someone could take money from him with his account number and they told him no.
Another part of this story that really came out in this interview were the dates and details of the relationship. Te’o had contact with Kekua from winter 2009-10 all the way until Jan. 2013, but it was off and on until April when “Kekua got into a car accident.”
Then he started taking the relationship more seriously and they became “exclusive.” Te’o told his parents they met, but it was only so his father wouldn’t demand Te’o to call off the relationship. He relayed the same story to the press because he knew it would make him look crazy to be in an online relationship.
Finally, something that really stands out in the transcript is that Te’o refers to “Kekua” as if she actually existed and still does. Take from that what you want, but it’s strange to read him relaying events as if they actually happened to a real person.
If you want all the details, read the transcript posted at the top of this update. It’s an interesting read, but until Tuiasosopo speaks, we won’t know if Te’o is telling the complete truth, or what the motivation for the hoax was.
3:45 p.m.: What are the odds that this would happen? Well, let’s ask Malcolm Gladwell.
3p.m.: In talking about media coverage of the hoax, Poynter does a solid job of surveying the landscape.
One item of particular note is how Poynter asks Deadspin’s Tommy Craggs about how The Boston Globe characterized Deadspin. In its Thursday story on the hoax, the Globe called Deadspin “a website that has broken some high-profile stories but not an outlet regarded for journalistic standards,” a description that had some people squirming, especially considered Deadspin did its homework and kicked news outlets’ butts on this one.
Craggs, understandably, blew the Globe off and bragged about his site’s work.
2:45 p.m.: It’s been hinted that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo had perpetuated hoaxes before, but this ESPN story gives perhaps the best synopsis of what he was up to.
A few people who had been duped by Tuiasosopo before were apparently behind the tweets that set the whole Deadspin investigation in motion, in fact.
This begs the question: If Tuiasosopo hadn’t tried to do a similar hoax with the same name (Lennay Kekua) before, would he have been caught this time?
1:30 p.m.: One of the bigger questions in all of this is what role the sports media has played in advancing the hoax.
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, who certainly got the ball rolling with his cover story, talks about his reporting here. Thamel was in the unenviable position of having to whip his article around in a short time frame, and of Te’o giving him what sounded like an incredible story when he interviewed him.
While many fingers can be pointed throughout the entire hoax, Thamel probably can take a little less blame than the rest of the sports media. He, after all, was one of the first on the story and got it straight from Te’o, while others repeated erroneous facts, filled in the blanks on their own or regurgitated the story in ways where the information didn’t add up. As a whole, sports journalism gets a black eye in this one.
It started with Thamel, though. While he may not have had time to do extensive background checks before filing, he — and the rest of sports media — should have followed up and not taken “no” for an answer when asking to talk to a member of Lennay Kekua’s family.
Thamel’s account will show how a bad slip in reporting can sometimes come from the perfect storm, but it also shows how something like this can be avoided in the future.
1 p.m.: Bill Simmons gives us a Simmons-like approach on the situation, and by far the best part is when he schemes that Bill Belichick is behind it all.
12:35 p.m.: Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick continues to put the support of the school and himself behind Manti Te’o, and Swarbrick also said that he encouraged Te’o to speak up and give his side of the story. Swarbrick said the family was planning on revealing the hoax Monday and that “the family lost the opportunity in some ways to control the story” by waiting.
Notre Dame has to be lauded for supporting Te’o throughout this mess, especially since he’s essentially moved on from the school by hiring an agent and getting ready for the NFL Draft. On the other hand, though, the school has plenty to lose in this situation. Notre Dame banks heavily on lore for its legacy and image, and such a huge lie and what could be called a coverup is exactly what makes people hate college football powers.
If Te’o is being truthful in saying that he wasn’t part of the hoax, and that he told Notre Dame once he knew, the school is largely in the clear. Sure, it could have revealed the information before the national title game, but it’s justifiable that the school thought Te’o should be the one to take care of it. (It’s also justifiable that the school let the rest of the team’s players enjoy their moment in the sun rather than letting the scandal break, especially after they were stuck in Te’o’s exhaust all year.)
But the bottom line is that no part of this is good for Notre Dame or Te’o. The school was in a no-win situation in some regards, and if it turns out that more could have been done to stop the hoax — or that Te’o was more involved — Notre Dame’s actions should get a huge second look. The school says it’s playing catchup at this point, but it fostered the environment where it now has to choose whether to support a player in such a situation.
Notre Dame should be supporting Te’o, but it’s as much to blame as Te’o or anyone else involved at this point.
Whether Notre Dame’s actions after the hoax was revealed are reputable or not, this doesn’t help the argument against college football being a god of its own, and able to create uncontrollable evils due to lax oversight.
12 p.m.: Deadspin broke the Manti Te’o hoax story largely with the help of some basic photo sleuthing, with the writers quickly finding out that Lennay Kekua was not the person in the photos on her Twitter account.
While Deadspin hid the identity of the real person in those photos, calling her “Reba,” the New York Post has revealed she is Diane O’Meara and chatted with her family.
O’Meara and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo were friends in high school, with Tuiasosopo using some guile to get the photos. It’s one of just many stories Tuiasosopo has told, and here’s guessing that he’ll be short on friends for a few years — at least when he starts asking these kind of favors.
11:30 a.m.: One of the main questions behind the Manti Te’o hoax situation is why anyone would go to such lengths to do something like this.
Not surprisingly, one of the answers surfacing is none other than what the Bible calls the root of all evil: Money.
Te’o’s uncle reportedly had several run-ins with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo that had him thinking that Te’o’s friend was not to be trusted. Near the end of the hoax, Tuiasosopo was reportedly asking for money to help with leukemia research — which sounds like a good way to get a lot of money and not necessarily spend it on a good cause.
In the ESPN story we just cited, Lennay Kekua (or whoever was behind her) reportedly asked Te’o for his checking account information once. He didn’t give it out.
If this was just a long-winded way to extort money from someone who would soon be rich, it makes a little more sense — a little.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.: Manti Te’o has given his most in-depth interview since news of the hoax broke, but — as with most things Te’o has said — it has not made the situation much clearer.
Te’o gave ESPN an audio interview on Friday night, and he did not sound sure at all as he fought his way around a story that increasingly hasn’t stacked up.
Te’o said he wasn’t sure the hoax wasn’t real until Wednesday night, when his friend, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, contacted him and confirmed that he was indeed the person behind the hoax, as Deadspin had reported. Te’o and Tuiasosopo talked over Twitter and then by phone, with Tuiasosopo confirming that he had perpetuated the hoax.
That could be why Te’o kept talking about his girlfriend even after that fateful phone call when she told him she was, indeed, alive — he may just not have known what to believe, and maybe thought that there was a chance that some of it was true (and, if she was being chased by drug dealers, maybe he’s trying to protect her?).
The story has a lot of details about how the hoax could have gone on so long, and how Te’o defends his involvement. He talks about lying to his family and how he met and sustained the relationship with Lennay Kekua. Some of it is quite helpful in seeing things from his perspective, but the question continues to be how he could have been duped for so long.
One telling portion explains why Te’o was so careful about people knowing it was an online relationship. He knew it wasn’t ordinary:
“That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”
The ESPN story also said Te’o has not been reading any media reports of the hoax and its aftermath. So, he’s probably less confused than the rest of us.
8:45 p.m.: So, while it’s clear that Deadspin did some amazing work in uncovering this story, it’s a valid question whether they went to far in implicating Te’o, himself.
One thing is undeniable: Te’o lied on some level. As we posted earlier, The Associated Press has clearly documented instances in which Te’o talked about his girlfriend in interviews after he supposedly learned the whole thing was a hoax.
But did he actually play a part in said hoax? This is where Deadspin may have taken a few too many liberties.
The Washington Post asks this question in a straightforward way, pointing out that while most of Deadpsin’s reporting on the story was “unimpeachable,” the site certainly relaxed those standards when it came to speculating about Te’o’s potential complicity.
What do you think?
6:55 p.m.: More details are emerging about what exactly happened once the person purporting to be Kekua tried to reconnect with Te’o in December.
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the woman on the other end of the phone told Te’o she had faked her death to evade drug dealers. Te’o reportedly asked for a time-stamped picture of Kekua, which she provided, but apparently this did not allay his suspicions, and he went to Notre Dame officials. It is not clear if this phone call was the same one mentioned by Swarbrick that occurred Dec. 6.
6:20 p.m.: What’s the appropriate grieving time for a girlfriend you never met? Is two months OK?
TMZ is reporting that’s exactly the case for Te’o, saying that he dated another woman just two months — in November — after the supposed death of Kekua. And, yes, there is good evidence that this one is, in fact, a real person. However, according to the report, the two aren’t together anymore.
5:35 p.m.: At least some thing are becoming increasingly clear in this story — and most of those things have to do with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
According to an ESPN report, Tuiasosopo told a friend back in December that he had played a hoax on Te’o, and that Te’o was exclusively a victim in this charade. He also admitted that he had played similar tricks on others before.
So, at this moment, it certainly looks like Te’o was not in on the original hoax. But did he continue to play on the story after he knew it to be fraudulent? The evidence, which we’ll be examining in coming posts in this live blog, varies.
Friday, 5:18 p.m: Well howdy, folks.
So, this story has clearly taken on a life of its own and refuses to die. So, with that in mind, we’re reopening our live blog to bring you all the updates and angles to this story that we can.
Stay tuned as we bring you more Manti Te’o details that you can probably stomach.
11:25 p.m.: To utterly beat a dead horse, this whole thing keeps getting stranger and stranger.
US Weekly is reporting that Tuiasosopo auditioned for the TV show The Voice recently, trying out for episodes for the upcoming season. What’s perhaps more relevant is the fact that, while he was there, apparently Tuiasosopo told quite a story about getting into a car accident while on the road with his Christian rock band. Sound familiar?
Reportedly Tuiasosopo had to pass a background check and psychological evaluation — standard procedure for a reality show — to get to audition. No judges turned their chairs around.
11:00 p.m.: More evidence is emerging that Te’o knew more about the hoax — or knew about it sooner — than the official story currently lets on.
According to The Associated Press, Te’o has perpetuated the myth of his girlfriend, mentioning the story at least twice publicly since the date he gave as knowing it was a hoax.
So, it’s almost unequivocal now that Te’o is involved in at least some level of deception. He may still have been the victim of a hoax, but at the bare minimum he was not forthright about that after learning Kekua wasn’t real.
10:20 p.m.: As of right now, we have little more to offer you in terms of the real people behind Kekua or Te’o’s potential knowledge of the hoax. However, we do have some interesting news from the world of journalism to share.
According to sources of The Big Lead, ESPN knew that Te’o’s girlfriend was some sort of hoax 10 days ago and actually learned about the story a day before the national championship game. So, why would they not run the story? Well, the article implies that the powers that be in Bristol squashed it because it could negatively affect the game — which ESPN itself was televising.
ESPN, for its part, has issued a firm denial of this report, stating that it only learned of and began investigating the story three days after the championship game.
9:30 p.m.: So, a little of this is speculation, but the timing is undoubtedly quite a coincidence.
At last night’s news conference, Notre Dame announced that it doesn’t handle the press availability for Te’o anymore. Te’o has actually signed with an agent, which, as Deadspin points out, allows him to take money for giving an interview. Te’o made the switch last week, so while it’s certainly possible it was just with the NFL Draft in mind, it’s hard not to read into the decision a little bit.
7:30 p.m.: The father of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo just so happens to be a pastor at a Southern California church — so that makes for an interesting moral angle in all of this. In any case, the elder Tuiasosopo, Titus, made a post on Facebook addressing the situation and thanking unnamed people for their support of his family:
“There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe the overwhelming love & support me & my Aiga have received today. Feels like I’ve been drinking from a fire hydrant. lol. Your texts, calls, emails, prayers & messages are received with a sincerely humble heart. I know so much has been splattered all over the media about my son & my family. I also know that many who were born in a manger in Bethlehem & continue to walk on water will undoubtedly express their opinions. Those of you who know us the best still love us the most. It my hope & prayer that we allow the truth to take its course, wherever that may lead. My heart goes out to Manti & the Te’o Aiga. Please allow this young man to pursue his dream without judgement. He’s an amazing role model for our youth and Samoan community. I love U all from the bottom of my heart.”
6:25 p.m.: Sorry for the slow updates, folks, but we do (finally) have some major news to share with you. And leave it to TMZ to make a break in a case like this.
According to the (normally) celebrity gossip site, a woman who TMZ refers to as “Jan” claims to have met Ronaiah Tuiasosopo at a USC football game. Jan is a student at Notre Dame and reached out to Kekua on Twitter while she was still “dating” Te’o, striking up a friendship with her. After Kekua supposedly died, Jan connected with a woman over Twitter she thought was Kekua’s sister.
The two agreed to meet, but instead of Kekua’s sister showing up, Tuiasosopo did — and TMZ has the photographic evidence. We’ll let you read their report, but suffice to say Tuiasosopo’s behavior was odd, and their meeting was shortly followed by more (now very unbelievable) social media drama.
So, while it remains to be seen if Te’o at any point figured out what was going on and concealed information, it’s looking more and more concrete that Tuiasosopo did pull some kind of hoax.
1:38 p.m.: It was only a matter of time before the Next Media Animation crew got a hold of this story, and they certainly did not disappoint.
Check out the Taiwanese animation of the Te’o situation, but be warned: Things get a little crazy.
12:32 p.m.: According to one Notre Dame student, the football team knew something fishy was going on. Check out this excerpt, reported by Big Lead Sports:
“The debate among teammates wasn’t whether or not Manti actually knew this girl — it was clear that they had been in contact. No, players just didn’t think that it was fair to call Lennay Kekua Manti’s girlfriend, period [it is well-known on campus that he has had relations with other girls during his time at Notre Dame]. They recognized what was going on for what it was — a terrible publicity stunt used to fuel Manti Te’o’s Heisman campaign. In fact, many of the players privately commented that they didn’t want the students to wear leis in support of Manti and wouldn’t participate themselves — they cited that the team never responded so publicly to tragic events for other players. But there was also the feeling that Manti didn’t deserve to benefit from publicity from the death of somebody he barely knew.”
12:30 p.m.: ESPN canceled its interview with Te’o on Thursday, according to Brian Hamilton. Te’o was supposed to sit down with Jeremy Schaap before it got “scrapped.”
12:22 p.m.: One of Outsports.com’s writers wonders if Te’o is gay, as brought to our attention by Larry Brown Sports.
11:34 a.m.: Have you Te’oed yet? What’s that — you’re not familiar with Te’oing? Check it out here — it’s all the rage.
10:36 a.m.: Talk about a wild way to wrap up Notre Dame’s wild ride this season. And if anyone (or anything) is good at wrapping things up (in big, bold puns), it’s the New York Post.
Check out the Post’s headline on Thursday.
Thursday, 9:42 a.m. ET: Some folks are saying that this will affect Te’o’s draft grade. Check out that story here.
8:58 p.m.: So, since you’re tuning in, would you like my opinion? Of course you would.
In short, something still smells fishy here — and that’s not a Catfish pun. Not coincidentally, ESPNews showed a multitude of interviews with Te’o leading up to its coverage of the news conference. Likewise, it’s far too difficult to believe that the apparent discrepancies in Notre Dame’s version of events aren’t due to some form of deception on Te’o’s part. The interviews are just far too straightforward to chalk it up to a matter of word choice — Te’o clearly intended for his audience to believe he had met this girl in person.
Nonetheless, that’s probably something that will never be revealed, so all we can look forward to now are forthcoming details about the perpetrators and what their motivations were. However, we can be sure that journalists will follow this story with far more aplomb than they did when they failed to fact check Kekua’s existence in the first place.
Anyway, the above is just one man’s opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
But that’s it for us in this brief live blog. Hope you took something out of this bizarre tale.
And, if you’re so inclined, here’s a link to buy the movie Catfish on Amazon.
8:49 p.m.: Swarbrick closes the news conference by reiterating that, according to him, some of the inconsistencies in this case seem to be due to diction.
He says that although it wasn’t the word he would have used, when Te’o said he “met” Kekua, he was referring to online interaction.
8:45: Swarbrick becomes very emotional during the conference at one point, saying that the most trusting person he ever knew (Te’o) won’t be able to do so in the same way again. Swarbrick’s eyes appeared to well up and he had to take a moment to compose himself before continuing.
8:37 p.m.: Perhaps unsurprisingly, news is already emerging that this incident could perhaps hurt Te’o’s draft status, as the linebacker was expected to be a first-round talent in the upcoming NFL draft.
8:33 p.m.: Swarbrick reveals that at one point, after revealing that she had not died, Kekua attempted to re-start the relationship with Te’o. He did not reply to contact at this point, believing the incident to be a hoax.
8:28 p.m.: Clarifying one earlier point, Swarbrick explains that the relationship between Te’o and Kekua was not only online, but over the phone, as well.
This could explain some of the interactions that Te’o later related to the media. However, upon viewing these interviews, he certainly seems to be implying he had in-person contact with Kekua.
8:20 p.m.: Without directly saying so, journalists asking questions during the news conference are tip-toeing around the fact that some stories provided by Te’o himself appear to be inconsistent with Notre Dame’s insistence that he was only a victim of a hoax. One journalist specifically mentions an instance where Teo’s father actually told him about a meeting with Kekua.
Swarbrick attempts to phrase this as a matter of semantics, pointing out that a “meeting” initially described to him by Te’o was actually an online meeting.
8:16 p.m.: Swarbrick, in attempting to provide evidence that Te’o was not complicit in the hoax, references the movie and television show based on Catfish, another story of faking an identity online.
8:15 p.m.: Swarbrick says that on Dec. 26 the university received a call from Te’o in which he informed them he believed he was the victim of an elaborate hoax. According to him, some time earlier he had received a phone call from the same voice he recognized as his girlfriend’s, Lennay Kekua, who said she was not dead.
8:10 p.m.: Swarbrick insists that Te’o is a victim in this case, despite some unresolved questions. Swarbrick says that nothing he’s learned from this incident shakes his faith in Te’o as a human being and honest student athlete.
8:06 p.m.: Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick takes the podium, opening with some comments about student privacy.
8 p.m. ET: For those who aren’t in the loop yet, the ongoing story of Manti Te’o’s girlfriend has been revealed as a hoax by Deadspin, unraveling a whole year’s worth of lies on the part of … someone.
Catch up on the story by reading our summary article on the events.