Manti Te’o silent on fake dead girlfriend scandal, details continue to implicate him


One of the biggest stories this week was that Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman trophy runner-up, Manti Te’o, was exposed in a piece by Deadspin as having made up the story of losing his girlfriend to leukemia last September. In response, Manti issued a statement claiming to have been the victim of an Internet hoax, and Notre Dame of course backed him up. He was expected to hold a press conference to answer questions about his involvement in the scandal, but instead the athletic director from Notre Dame held the press conference with Manti nowhere in sight. It seemed like a cover-up for a star player, and there are still so many unanswered questions about it. It’s also a very complicated story, so I’ll do some bullet points here, which I have to credit Buzzfeed and CNN for.

  • Notre Dame’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, claims that Te’o does not know the man behind the Twitter accounts belonging to his fake dead girlfriend. This is in contrast to Deadspin’s source, a relative of the hoaxer, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who claims that Te’o did know Tuiasosopo and that they were “family friends.”

  • Swarbrick stated in the press conference that Manti told his coaches on December 26 that he figured out he was duped on December 6, the day that he received a call “from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead.” This admission brings into question Manti’s statements on December 8, when he stated before the Heisman Trophy presentation that he “lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.” TMZ has a lame story claiming that Te’o didn’t come clean for 20 days because “he thought it would be a huge distraction while the team prepared to face Alabama in the BCS Championship.”

  • Te’o told a Sports Illustrated reporter in October that his fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, came to one of his games. There was a whole story in the Indiana South Bend Tribune about how Manti and Lennay met after a Stanford game in 2009. Manti’s father even claimed in that article that Lennay regularly traveled to Hawaii to meet with his son. This contradicts Manti’s recent statement claiming to be the victim of a hoax.

  • Another football player, Arizona Cardinals Reagan Maui’a, incredibly claims to have met Lennay in person, in June 2011. He said “she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was – I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”

    This story is hard to parse out, and there are of course more details I’m leaving out. Here’s the version that Notre Dame wants us to believe, but I’m not convinced. They want us to believe that Manti was a very naive victim of a cruel hoax. Maybe this kind of relationship appealed to him because he was devout in his Mormon faith and it was easier to love someone from afar. It’s possible he made up a cover story about how he met Lennay in order to hide the fact that they had an online-only relationship. It’s possible he used false details to bolster their relationship to the press and those close to them, like telling his family she would visit him. If this version is the case, though, at the very least he continued to lie and act as if this person were real even after he realized he was duped. This makes me wonder – who was the woman talking to him on the phone and why did she come clean about the hoax?

    Other theories claim that Manti was in on this with his old buddy Ronaiah the whole time and that it was a cover up for the fact that he’s deep in the closet.

    As Radar reports, apart from his written statement, Manti has remained silent since news of this scandal broke and has not spoken to the press. Radar has a related story about how this mess could cost Manti a career in the NFL.

    Photos from Facebook

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    104 Responses to “Manti Te’o silent on fake dead girlfriend scandal, details continue to implicate him”

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    1. Riana says:

      What a huge unnecessary mess.

    2. Post-Its says:

      I don’t know why it would cost him a shot in the NFL. He would fit in well amoung the other d-bag football players.

      • L says:

        Seriously, the NFL have guys that have been convicted of rapes, assaults, manslaughter, fraud etc etc. He’ll fit right in.

        They could care less about this, the only issue is that he’ll be a top 20 draft pick instead of top 10. Oh the horror! (eye roll)

      • Esmom says:

        Yeah I read a funny/sad comment that said something like at least his fake girlfriend died of fake leukemia…that had it been a real girlfriend in the NFL he would have just shot her.

        The thing I constantlt tell my sports fan sons: Athletes (most of them anyway) are not heroes or role models. Sure they can enjoy sports but they should direct their admiration to people who do meaningful work to make a difference in the world.

        • Jay says:

          Not all players are bad role models. A kid could do worse than look up to, say, Andrew Luck.

        • Esmom says:

          @Jay, Funny you mention Luck because my older son is a HUGE fan. Agree that he is a fine role model, probably mostly imo because he’s inspired my son to shoot for Stanford.

          I guess I should revise my statement to say that sports stars can be inspirational but it’s a shame that people who are doing really important work do so with nowhere near the same level attention/appreciation that sports figures do.

    3. Monie says:

      Last picture = Pearl Drops, please. I’m so catty today, is it too early for a drink? lol

    4. Dani says:

      Really? A hoax like this can cause a star player his future career in the NFL meanwhile 80% of players are womanizers, cheaters, wife beaters, or have some form of addiction? Interesting how this is ‘fitting.’ Complete BS. I’m not even a fan but he’s good enough that I’ve heard of him and know that he deserves that NFL contract more than some of those players.

    5. Winnie says:

      This continues to be such a confusing mess. I fear we will never know the whole truth, which will drive me nuts.

    6. marie says:

      It’s not going to cost him a job in the NFL, if it were, he wouldn’t be at the NFL Combine training for the draft. As long as he can produce, someone will snatch him up. It may have cost him a spot in the top 10, but that’s about it. (then again, his playing in the championship game could cost him that spot too)

      Honestly, I still think it was done in part for publicity. Before this year, I had never heard of Te’o but I’m not an ND fan, so it’s possible he was talked about before I just didn’t hear it. No one would have made this into a thing, had he not made it into a thing. I do believe he liked seeing his name/face everywhere, being considered an inspiration.

      • emma says:

        My family is hugely into ND. Manti was a huge prospect when he was signed from high school. He performed really well and especially this last year. I didn’t think he needed publicity like this, but I guess I don’t know why he would otherwise do this.

      • MJ says:

        University of No Such Dame (wish I could take credit for that one…)

      • ZenB!tch says:

        I’m a Trojan so I’m smirking. I have also wondered about his career in the NFL because it seemed to me that he might be mentally unstable.

        They don’t care if you are ghetto not-so-fabulous or if you are a bit pushy with women (*ahem*rapist*ahem*) but they care if you are not a fine specimen of American masculinity.

        The reason I don’t think he is a devout young man who prefers a long distance relationship is because after THREE years I think he would have wanted to meet her and perhaps prepare to marry. That is what devout young men do isn’t it?

    7. Masque says:

      Manti, if you were in on the hoax (and it sure looks like you were) come clean NOW. don’t wait 15 years and who knows how many lies/lawsuits later to go on Oprah and admit your guilt.

      See also: Armstrong, Lance.

    8. aims says:

      I’ve been sort of keeping up on this. My feeling is, he and his buddy made up this story. For whatever reason. I’ve also heard he’s arrogant, a poor sport and generally a real prick. He said he never met her in person, but his dad said he told them they had met a few times. Theres so many conflicting accounts it gives me a headache. I do think he wanted press, he wanted to stand out. He was pulling a Lance Armstrong. He shouldn’t be rewarded for lying and such a sick lie at that

    9. fabgrrl says:

      This shows the problem of “too much information”. Why should a college athlete have the same level of exposure as a movie star? A boy makes up a fake girlfriend to appease his family. Why do we even know about this? No one would have given a sh!t thirty years ago.

    10. V4Real says:

      WHAT? Is anyone else as confused as I am? LOL.

      • normades says:

        Me. Don’t understand this story at all!

      • Kimbob says:

        At 1st it was confusing to me because I don’t understand how such a riduculous story is getting such press. I don’t know, but I’m just getting the “feel” that this is like, something that belongs in the category of high school/adolescent pranks.

        I understand that maybe this was really, REALLY stupid prank/story so this dude could garner sympathy & attention in his quest for the Heisman trophy…& also maybe a fake persona/beard cover…maybe?…but it’s gone too far & has become SO ridiculous.

        As more is revealed, & as more contradictions arise, again I feel that national attention is being directed to a gag/prank that is SO adolescent & childish in nature that just shows how immature and stupid this Manti Te’o is. I’ll say this, if it does turn out to be a prank that Manti was in on, there should be consequences for him.

    11. Sarah says:

      I’m thinking the gay angle is what’s going on here. He got tired of the guys ribbing him about where his girlfriend was so he and his friend create a girl. He gets tired of them asking why she doesn’t visit so he kills her off a la Elaine killing Suzy off in Seinfeld. People start asking and it gets bigger than he ever imagined and now it’s all coming out. He will continue to deny any involvement so we’ll never get a true story. As long as no one accepted gifts or anything he hasn’t done anything illegal but I can see how some nfl players might respond negatively to him after this mess.

    12. TQB says:

      Alright now, slow down a bit. It’s fitting that he should lose his shot to play a linebacker in the NFL? Come on now. I am a huge NFL fan. I love football. But the NFL has many, many issues – the head injuries, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse. Being a gullible, possibly closeted moron – or even a would-be con man? What, like that’s going to bring down the spotless image of the league? Give me a break.

      He probably will lose out on a big contract for this, and that’s garbage – as much so as when Cincinnati almost didn’t draft Andy Dalton because they weren’t sure about having a red headed QB. (No I am not making that up; this is the brain trust that is running a playoff-caliber NFL team.) But if we start firing linebackers for not being smart, the talent level is going way down. Ever watch Ivy League football? Do you know why it’s a big deal when a Yale guy makes it big in the NFL? It’s an anomaly when someone that smart is also an NFL-level talent.

    13. TheOriginalKitten says:

      This is *JUST* a theory on my part and I’m going to throw it out there at the risk of people screaming at me but I have a feeling this was made up to conceal something, perhaps and this is a big PERHAPS, that he is gay.

      Now listen, people who know me around here might call me out as I make it a point to avoid speculating about people’s sexuality but HEAR ME OUT: He didn’t need the publicity-this guy was famous for his career and he earned it. But why create the fake girlfriend to begin with? Was it easier than getting a beard (in which case he would need some level of collusion from the woman) or was it just an easy way to avoid questions about who he is dating etc etc?

      Ok, again-this is something that I’m just throwing out there as a possibility-not saying it’s definitive.
      What IS definitive, however, is that this guy was covering up something. The “why” is really what’s missing here.

      Also, I haven’t been following this story very closely so if I’m completely off-base please feel free to tell me why. I admit I don’t know all the details, just the overall picture.

      • Happymom says:

        You’re not alone-I wondered that too.

      • lucy2 says:

        I don’t think anyone will scream at you, everywhere I read about this, people are speculating that’s the case.

      • marie says:

        I don’t understand the lie of the girlfriend either. Players aren’t generally asked about that, and if they are he could have just said he had a girl at home. why were the lies so elaborate? maybe he is gay, but I also think he loves attention.

        and for third (don’t you hate when folks just start randomly number their bullet points?) GO FALCONS!!

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        @Lucy-yeah apparently the gay theory has already been bounced around so I guess it’s old news and I’m just living under a rock. I just didn’t want to offend people by saying this guy is definitively gay without any real proof. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (to quote Seinfeld).

        @marie-yeah I know what you mean but maybe it was easier to kill the girlfriend off and be done with it then to have the media looking for her and asking her opinion about him, what with the spotlight shining so brightly on him right now. And thirdly, ;) Maybe he knew that people would be more hesitant to question him and do their standard due diligence if they thought it was a sensitive issue, such as death.

      • ParisPucker says:

        also thought this, and I think we’ll find out that this will likely be the case. But it’s not just that he lied about having a girlfriend…he lied about a gf who DIED of CANCER. and this drew sympathy from the public. I don’t care about football or cycling, but revealing major character flaws so explicitly in front of the public merits this reaction.

        He’s a fool, and obviously not that bright. NFL’s PR machine is right to reacting the way it has, but am sure this will blow over eventually. He will play, just for much, much, less now for having been such an idiot to go on with this charade. He created his own mess. stoopid. stoopid. stoopid.

        • iheartjacksparrow says:

          And previous to having “died” she was in a horrible car crash and could have “died” from that, though I guess that wasn’t dramatic enough for him. Death by cancer would probably generate more sympathy than death by car crash.

      • The Original Tiffany says:

        That is what I think too. Sorry, it just is.

        That is what happens when you live by lying. It gets hard trying to make all your lies match and pretty soon your words and your whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

        Is there anything worse than someone who constantly concocts stories? Lies and delusion, always hand in hand. No matter if is Lindsay Lohan, a football star or some idiot IRL.

    14. Happymom says:

      I’m still wondering why this is national news?? I’m not a sports fan, so maybe that’s why-but, huh? He’s either an idiot or a liar, and I don’t understand why this would impact his NFL career-and sure don’t see why it’s all over the news.

      • T.C. says:

        Because he is a famous sports star caught in a scandal that questions his character. Just like why the scandel with Tiger Woods was national news. I don’t follow sports but even I have heard of this kid. Lots of positive publicity he got in the past-the nice Mormon kid.

        As long as he continues playing well Notre Dame will cover for him and he will get a fat NFL contract.

      • Kimbob says:

        @Happymom…my thoughts exactly. I didn’t see your comment till after I had made mine. I agree w/you. A high-schoolish, adolescent prank gone bad…& just because it involves a big college & high profile player…it’s in the national conscience.

        **I’m not a big football fan, & hope I haven’t offended any that are, but this is just such a childish prank. Like I said above, there should be consequences.

    15. lucy2 says:

      You’re busted, dude. Come clean now, apologize, and try to move on.
      If it really was a hoax and he found out on 12/6, he would NOT have mentioned her 2 days later.

      If he’s a talented player, it shouldn’t cost him his career, but it probably isn’t making him more desirable to teams right now.
      If he is gay and this was all some sort of elaborate cover because of football, religion, or culture, I feel sorry for him that he felt the need to do that. But it’s still very wrong and very gross.

    16. Leah says:

      I’m confused about the portion with the Arizona Cardinal’s player claiming he met her and helped her through the loss of her father. I could have sworn I read something about how her “sister” popped up on Twitter claiming that her family missed her and that they were out celebrating the Dad’s birthday? Did I miss something with that?

      I personally don’t see how he couldn’t have been involved in some way. Too many details don’t add up for me for him to NOT have been involved in some way. Plus, he knows this guy behind it. There’s no question, especially when I’m reading there were pictures of them that have since been deleted.

    17. TQB says:

      My theory: the GF is Lance, who wanted to find a way that he could do his big come clean and somehow NOT be the biggest sports story in the country that day.

      I’m sort of kidding. In fact, how pissed is Lance that he contrives this whole confession and totally loses the spotlight? Schadenfreude!

      • TG says:

        LOL on your comments on Lance. I have been glued to the TV these past nights re him and then race to the internet to read about the analysis of his interview. I am more fascinated with the pyschology behind all of this. On this site we frequently call celebs narcissist and sociopaths, etc. and I have asked, along with others, if narcissim can be treated and most of us have conluded that it can’t, at least not without a concerted effort on the part of the person. It has been said that Lance is a sociopath and a narcissist and you can see that in this interview. It is like he isn’t even human, he has no understanding or feeling of the harm he has done to so many. On paper he seems to be aware of it but he can’t get the concept. Maybe with more therapy and a sincere effort he will get it, but I doubt it. I do not think he is capable of true remorse and that he continues to lie even now. Since he compared his sentence to a death sentence I will go on to say that his lack of remorse or understanding of the pain he has caused can be compared to a sociopathic murderer who has no feeling for his victim.

    18. Eileen says:

      Perhaps Oprah can interview him next and he can pseudo confess like Lance Armstrong? What a mess!

    19. Birdie says:

      I don’t really see why this is a big story or a scandal. He is not that famous. He was exposed and now the damage control has started. He is obviously in the closet or just attention seeking, well he has that now. No one got really hurt though, it’s just very embarrassing.

    20. Merritt says:

      I really wish that the death of Lizzy Seeberg after she took her own life after reporting being raped by a Notre Dame football player, had received half of the attention that this nonsense has. A player that played in the recent championship, when Alabama rolled over them.

      I could personally care less about his fake girlfriend and whether he was in on it.

      However the media should be exposing the rape culture at Notre Dame. That is real news.

      • emma says:

        Agreed! Although- Seeberg said she was sexually molested, not raped. Regardless, her story is tragic and it’s terrible that ND is still being allowed to act like this boy’s club.
        And that Seeberg’s suicide stirred probably 1% or less of the attention that Te’o has gotten.

        • lrm says:

          Sexual Assualt is the legal term used for rape….we don’t say rape in our society here, that’s not a nice word is it?, police use the term ‘sexual assualt’-it white washes it and people are confused thinking oh maybe ‘he just made her kiss him’, as though that is not ‘rape’? and rape is only what? forced intercourse?
          sexual assault IS rape. They are the same-forced sexual relations.

          Also, this thread: this nonsense about ray lewis ‘making up for it’ with his fan,s etc shows a lot about this culture…wtf?
          If males and fans in general put HALF the emotional and psychological energy they put into football, into actual real life and issues in the world, we’d have a changed world….

          And who needs to apologize for ‘offending football fans’ simply b/c one is not a fan?

          I loathe it and always have-the team loyalty and over the top importance given it, and so many other reasons, just add to my dislike.
          It’s not rocket science. Nor is it curing anything or helping anyone.
          It’s entertainment, which is essential in life and football/sports are entertainment for some, not all.

          At this point, you cannot even appreciate the physicality of it, when nearly every player is doping or otherwise getting an ‘advantage’.

          What a disturbing thread of comments, about a more disturbing topic: NFL.
          oh, they are ‘more strict’ than NBA and MLB? gee, that is saying something-lol

          this culture is ill….

    21. Persnickety says:

      How sincere a Mormon can he be to have definitely knowingly lied 12/8? Oh, right, Romney seemed to feel fine blatantly lying as well. Does their church teach the ends justify the means? Or that professions of faith are all that matter?

      What I want to know is whose breathing did Manti listen to every night for 8 hours?!

      BTW, does anyone remember Brian’s Song? Manti probably saw the remake and thought he could orchestrate a CW or Lifetime caliber version.

      • TG says:

        I won’t engage the romney talk (not because I like him but because I tend to get offensive with my opinions and I know that isn’t appropriate for this site, so I am trying to be good), but I will say that lots of ego-driven type of people, the win at all costs kind of people often use religion to soothe their conscience. So they aren’t necessarily faking it but they need to know that they are spiritual and good people and God is blessing them with all this success and shining a light down on them so then they can go back out in the world and continue to do what they do whether it be lying, stealing, cheating, destroying jobs all to make more money for themselves. I think celebs join cults for similar reasons (the Co$, Kabalah, etc.), also to stroke their ego even more.

    22. mar says:

      the whole thing is just stupid. Like who cares if he lied? Oh well, people lie. It makes him look stupid but let’s get over it!

    23. KellyinSeattle says:

      My first thought was Pearl Drops/White Strips, too….I think it was a lie that escalated until it got out of control, but still a terrible lie.

    24. ichiro51 says:

      I think he got caught up in a hoax and then when he found it was a hoax he was too embarrassed about it and got caught up in a circle of lies. It will be sad if he was in on it the whole time because what type of crazy are you to come up with something like that.

    25. Nicolette says:

      Oh what a tangled web we weave…….. Maybe it started out as a ploy to throw people off the fact that he may be gay, but then one lie led to another, that led to another, and so on and so on.

      I doubt this will hurt his NFL career. It seems these days the nuttier or more outlandish you are, the more famous you become.

    26. lucy2 says:

      So apparently the guy who set it all up is now “confessing”, and Te’o's uncle is claiming he knew all along that guy was a liar (yeah right).
      Apparently the “relationship” started in 2008. So for FOUR YEARS he had an online girlfriend he never met or spoke too? (yeah right).
      Some “cousins” are claiming they figured out the hoax. Puh-lease.
      This is family trying to cash in on their 15 minutes, and make him seem like a victim. He had to have been in on it, otherwise he’d have to be one of the most naive people to ever walk the earth.

    27. Kloops says:

      There are cached twitter records of Teo and the perpetrator communicating and acknowledging their friendship. If Teo was scammed (he wasn’t) it was a by someone he considers a friend. Not a stranger. Regardless of the reason (closeted? Heisman votes? Fame whore?) this guy was very likely in on it.

    28. Vera says:

      The only thing that makes sense in the mess is that Te’o is gay. Sad that the NFL would rather have a rapist, drug abuser, or murder on a team rather than a gay man.

    29. Kosmos says:

      This is a ridiculous story…who would consider someone a ‘girlfriend’ after just meeting online? Get real, this just doesn’t make sense in this day and age. A guy has to at least date someone and romanticize someone in the flesh before they become a ‘girlfriend.’ I’m just not buying this silly story, something is amiss here.