Updated: Te'o Addresses Hoax

Confusion and disbelief, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o told ESPN Friday, are what kept him from breaking his silence until now.

The most pertinent piece of information that came out of a two and a half hour interview with Jeremy Schaap at the IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where Te’o is preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft, is that the Heisman Trophy runner-up wasn’t knowingly part of an elaborate hoax involving his girlfriend — a woman he believed to be Lennay Kekua, who purportedly passed away from leukemia on Sept. 12.

Te'o denied being part of the hoax.

"No. Never," Te'o told ESPN about whether or not he helped carry out the ruse, which is now known to have been masterminded by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and others. "I wasn't faking it," he said. "I wasn't part of this."

But Te’o was part of this … he was the mark.

“I'll be OK,” he told Schapp. “As long as my family's OK, I'll be fine."

Deadspin.com first broke the news Wednesday that Kekua not only hadn’t died, but that she never existed. It was a bombshell first felt by Te’o on Dec. 6, the day he said the woman posing all along as Kekua, called him and explained she had faked her death to evade drug dealers.

"She said, well, Manti, it's me," Te'o recalled. "That's all she said. And I played stupid for a little bit. I was like, 'Oh, I know it's you, U'ilani (Kekua's purported sister). What do you mean?' And she's like, 'No, Manti, it's me.'

"She said, 'It's Lennay.' So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. 'How could you do this to me?' I ended that conversation by saying simply this: 'You know what? Lennay, my Lennay, died on Sept. 12.'"

The only deception Te’o said he was guilty of, however, was how he tailored his account of how he met Kekua. He admitted that the relationship began on social media website Facebook when he was a sophomore at Notre Dame in 2010, and that it continued to develop into a romance via online and telephone contact only. Out of his embarrassment as to how odd that might sound to his family, Te’o said he lied to his father, Brian, telling him he had met Kekua in person.

Quotes attributed to Brian Te’o about his son’s in-the-flesh encounters with Kekua contradicted details of the relationship Manti Te’o shared with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick on Dec. 27-28, which Swarbrick explained in a press conference Wednesday evening.

"I knew that — I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," Te’o said. "And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well."

Te’o denied that he fabricated certain parts of the relationship to help draw attention to his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

Te'o spoke of Kekua as his girlfriend several times after Dec. 6. The first public reference was at the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York on Dec. 8. The second was on ESPN Radio the same day. He also spoke about Kekua in a Los Angeles Times column on Dec. 10 and at a Jan. 3 news conference before the BCS title game, though he didn’t refer to her as his girlfriend directly in that instance.

Te’o explained to ESPN that he wasn’t positive until Wednesday that Kekua was in fact a fictitious persona played by an unknown female.

“What Manti Te’o told me was that after he gets this phone call on Dec. 6 and somebody says ‘I’m alive; I’m Lennay, I’m alive,’ he’s utterly confused,” Schaap explained. “He is told some story about how she’s been in hiding from drug dealers. I know it sounds fantastical, but you have to believe me that he was very convincing the way he laid this out.

“That he was not fully convinced that Lennay Kekua did not exist until two days ago when he heard from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who has been reported to be the person behind this hoax, Manti Te’o told me that Tuiasosopo called him two days ago and told him that he was behind the hoax. … [Te’o] showed me Twitter messages apparently from Tuiasosopo apologizing for perpetrating this hoax on him, embarrassing him, etc.”

Te’o explained that the relationship didn’t take a romantic turn until last year, when Kekua claimed her father had passed away.

“I was that shoulder to cry on,” Te’o said. “And I kind of just naturally cared for the person. And so our relationship kind of took another level. But not the kind of exclusive level yet."

He said he was informed Kekua was involved in a car accident on April 28, 2012, and that she was in a coma until mid-May. Despite having what he described as a spiritual connection with the woman, he never visited her in the hospital.

“It never really crossed my mind,” Te’o told Schapp. “I don't know. I was in school.

Kekua told Te’o that doctors had discovered leukemia when she was recovering from the crash, and the two spent nearly every night on the phone together while she underwent chemotherapy. Just six hours after Te’o learned that his grandmother had passed away on Sept. 12, he received a call from one of Kekua’s relatives telling him that she had lost her battle with cancer.

Before Kekua died, she phoned Te’o to offer her condolences.

“I was angry. I didn't want to be bothered," he said. "So Lennay was just trying to be there for me. I just — I just wanted my own space. We got in an argument. She was saying, 'You know, I'm trying to be here for you.' I didn't want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself.

"Last thing she told me was 'Just know I love you.'"

That is until he received a haunting call from her once again on Dec. 6. The two spoke several times in the weeks that followed as Te’o tried to verify that the woman claiming to have faked her death was the same woman he believed to be his girlfriend. Once Te’o understood that he had been the victim of a hoax, he explained the situation to his parents once he arrived home in Hawaii over Christmas break. The Te’o family informed Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator on Dec. 26.

Te’o told ESPN he first met Tuiasosopo after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Tuiasosopo reached out to Te’o Wednesday and admitted to perpetrating the hoax that apparently played out until the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7. Te’o revealed Friday that a group of people related to Tuiasosopo showed up at the Notre Dame team hotel in Miami.

“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o said. “… According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."

Added Te’o: “I hope he learns," Te'o said. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

Skip To Comments

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial

    Two time Poster of The Week, 2011 and 2013.

  • hemy

    First, the media want Teo to speak, so he speaks. Then, not
    being satified with a two and one-half hour interview conducted by
    and made available to ESPN, the media demand that he speak in
    front of a camera. Now, let us say, he goes and speaks in front
    of a camera; then, not being saitisfied, the media will demand he
    go before a press conference; so, he goes before a press conference.
    Not being satisfied, the media then demand that he submit to being
    interviewed on 60 Minutes. So, Teo submits and not being
    satisfied, the media demand....

    It endless. He came forward and spoke. He told his side
    of the story honestly. He answered questions truthfully.
    There is nothing to be gained by subjecting him to more.
    It should be over.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by hemy 18 months ago

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • hemy

    This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • Until we fight the battles of others we can never know their trails. I do believe that Manti handled this as well as possible, along with the university. Not being a legal rep. or PR person, I cannot say he had bad representation. I am very sure that Mr. Swarbrick advised Manti, thus meaning very good advise. I truly don't know where ND would be without Mr. Swarbrick he is the best AD i have ever heard of. I truly hope Mr. Swarbrick stays a long time at ND.

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • In this day and age this type of stuff is more common than we realize especially us old gizzers! Trying to start a relationship can be a 'hazardous' venture and I can totally understand how Teo 'tailored' his explanations to his family now do you tell your Dad about having a girlfriend you've NEVER met?? This is a 20 year old young man living under the microscope of being THE leader of a national resurgent Notre Dame team TALK about pressure NOW he gets blindsided by a false relationship(being a 20 yr old you're allowed a mulligan on this one) yep 'embarassment' is the word maybe capitalize it EMBARASSMENT. Teo coming out is the right thing to do and showing no ill will towards others is commendable - ND handled this one well - now let's move on to NSD and spring ball. GO IRISH!

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by irish13 18 months ago

  • So really Teo is a habitual liar. In order for someone to be a victim of a hoax, you have to be fooled into believing something that is not true. There is no way that Teo was fooled into believing his girlfriend was real for 3 years. He never met her and he lied to his parents about meeting his girlfriend so they would not be suspicious. That alone tells you that there were doubts about the existence of a girlfriend and yet he kept going with it right through to the national title game..

    Sure he got played initially, but he didn't get played for three years. The truth was staring Teo in the face and he didn't want to believe it. You are no longer a victim when you are battling to keep the truth from coming out.

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • I am not to sure the above poster has a good grasp on human emotion. I do think in someways Manti embellished the relationship but my understanding it was not until this year he became more involved emotionally. I think you need to go to MTV and watch catfish. I know it seems like people should figure this out but denial is a strong emotion and some of us just can not accept reality when it is not what we want it to be. I can not look through your life but can you honestly reflect on your life and say you have never lied or sinned. I think all of us know the answer and that is no knock on you. I think all of us could be more understanding of things we can not understand than so cynical when people do not react or act exactly as we would in a given situation. It still comes down to the fact no laws were broke and Teo is not gaining anything from this now nor is the other people.

  • Lets not lose sight of what's important here. There is a fake dead girl who we should all be mourning...

  • Cos I read your post and found many things to agree with.I am an alum and I fully realize that other schools are the equal in many ways to Notre Dame. I do not think one should be measured by the amount of things we obtain in a life time but what we do and how we serve others is much more telling. I am not so sure why you feel a need to leave. Is it because not everyone thinks like you do. Is it because some seem far removed from you beliefs. This is a public message board and as such will be a reflection of our country and the thought prevalent in it. I do not agree with you on the president but my problems with him have nothing to do with the color of his skin. I can see where you think some of his philosophies fit into Catholic views but I myself do not see many that really fit into what I think are the beliefs of Christianity and the Catholic church is nothing if it is not christian. That is just my opinion and I wish you well in life and keep rooting for the Irish because nothing can be everything to everybody.

    This post was edited by Gulinias 18 months ago

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • In a word, "no." Older, seemingly more seasoned observers of life, get taken in all the time, by all manners of scams and schemes. Like everyone else, you have no idea what was going on in that three year interval that might have made some like Te'o stay hooked on this ploy. Nor do you know Te'o, himself, to know his vulnerabilities. It's more probable than not that he believed she was real because when we want something badly enough, wishing will make it so.

    signature image

    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • CosRaimondi, you had an interesting post, but I won't bother attaching it here, nor responding to numerous points in it, which would interest me, perhaps you, and probably no one else. But, I must ask, what did you expect when you came on here? This is a Notre Dame football board. Predominantly white and male. Why would you not expect it would tilt to the right and be fueled by anti-Obama sympathies? Such comments have no place here, not because of their political leanings, but because they're political. As a result, you just poured more gasoline on the fire you were complaining about. Sorry that you're leaving, but I don't think you're going to find safe haven on any other Notre Dame football board.

    signature image

    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • All true Hemy, but it's also possible this was only the opening salvo from his side in an effort to defuse the predictable overreaction. As you suggest, no matter what Manti did, it would not have been enough for the doubters. The full story needs to be told, and that involves others. My guess is that his "people" are still working on a bigger production.

    signature image

    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • I must say Ham, your views often interest me. And I might enjoy a bit of a political discourse with you regarding the issues of the day. But that's not the point. I was born less than a mile from the White House, grew up in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) am neither Catholic nor particularly religious in the larger sense, and support the President for reasons that will remain my own.

    The larger point is this: Blue & Gold Illustrated and the 247Sports entity with which it is affiliated provides me with a (sometimes) pleasant distraction from the oftentimes vitriolic and poisonous "discussion" that feigns to be the democratic process. Due to the region in which I grew up, an affinity for current affairs and the particulars of public policy are in my blood. So yeah, a debate with you, Ham, might be quite enjoyable and beneficial for both.

    However, I do agree with one point raised by CosRaimondi (though I disagree wholeheartedly with his overall defeatest attitude): this site is - and should remain - devoted to those people who are invested in Notre Dame Athletics, not politics. If it's politics you want, there are a myriad other websites where one can vent their frustrations and have their opinions and beliefs reinforced. Sometimes, there are those on this board who shoot from the hip and say, electronically, things they would not say in the presense of another human being; especially the Virgin Mary, someone to whom many on this board proclaim religious allegiance.

    I love the University of Notre Dame for its devotion to higher education, its neverending quest for knowledge and wisdom, its athletic heritage and its progressive history. Father Hesburgh would flinch at some of the things posted here, and for good reason. He is someone who exemplifies and personifies everything wonderful about Notre Dame; a quick look at his life story is a testament to that fact.

    This board is a refuge for me (not lately, though, for obvious reasons). I would just hope that we can abstain, as a community, from using politics as a basis for disagreement. If you don't like the President, that's fine. If you're a white, male Republican, that's fine too. But I'm not interested. If you don't like Brian Kelly's playcalling, tell me about it. If you don't like the personel groupings on a Saturday afternoon, enlighten me. If you have a better idea at to who should start at Mike LB against Temple on August 31st, I'm all ears.

    Over the past seven months, I have enjoyed immensely the back-and-forth on this board. I have enjoyed the journalism and opinions as expressed by both the editors of B&G and the board members with whom I have lived through more than I ever thought we would in such a short period of time (the last few weeks, particularly).

    Finally, I would like to quote Jefferson as a main response to CosRaimondi's post:

    "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

    Friends, all. Go Irish.

  • Manti never said a thing like that. ESPN admitted that they made a "transcription error" in their original version of this story (one of a long line of egregious errors by ESPN and other media in their reporting of this Manti hoax story). They left out the word "not." Here is the quote from ESPN at the bottom of a later version of their story:

    "Due to a transcription error, how Manti Te'o felt he played in the BCS title game was misrepresented in an earlier version of this story. Te'o said he was not affected by the story surrounding a girlfriend hoax during the game."

    This quote was at the bottom of the following ESPN story:

    http://espn.go.com/chicago/college-football/story/_/id/8859077/manti-teo-notre-dame-fighting-irish-denies-being-part-hoax-late-girlfriend

    At least ESPN admitted this mistake. But they and the rest of the media have a lot more apologizing to do. Much of this coverage was outrageously misleading and unfair -- perhaps defamatory -- to Manti, and he deserves an apology. Even the scammer has apologized to Manti; why can't ESPN, CBSSports.com and other media who clearly suggested that Manti was in on the scam and a liar? The only lie Manti told was to his dad, because he was embarrassed to admit to his dad that his girlfriend relationship was entirely online. For this tiny white lie, Manti has been subjected to incredibly harsh verbal abuse, thanks to the distortions of the truth in the media. How does he get his reputation back? The least he is due is a sincere, loud and public apology from ESPN and other media.

    "The pilgrims follow by the sacred waters/...And there's a magic in the sound of their name/Here come the Irish of Notre Dame"

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
  • Very well said, Bleeds. Yes, it would be entertaining to exchange political thoughts, but we both agree this is not the place. Perhaps, at some point, we'll find ourselves on adjacent bar stools, a much more appropriate venue for such musings.

    signature image

    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • Well said, Bleeds B&G !! Frankly, I find this Board and the friendly repartee on Notre Dame football a pleasant refuge from my everyday professional issues, especially politics.

    I come here to relax and enjoy the informed dialogue led by the very knowledgeable staff and contributed to by many posters who are far wiser than I on all things ND football related !!

    Here's to keeping this Board an oasis of pleasure !!

  • This post is for members of BlueandGold only. Join now! Start Free Trial
    signature image signature image signature image

    Irish Oak in Chicago

Already have an account? Sign In