Notre Dame Star’s Dead Girlfriend Was A Hoax
He’s either a huge jerk or a poor sap. After the nation watched months of heartbreaking drama as Notre Dame star Mani Te’o dealt with the illness and eventual death of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, the entire relationship turned out to be a hoax.
Sports Illustrated reported tragedy in September when Te’o’s girlfriend lost her battle to leukemia hours after his beloved grandmother passed away. According to reports, Kekua, a 22-year-old Stanford student, had been in a serious car accident in California shortly before being diagnosed with leukemia. Sports Illustrated described how Te’o would phone her every night, speaking with her for hours before falling asleep with Kekua on the line.
Te’o story become one of inspiration when he led Notre Dame to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State—racking up 12 tackles—after receiving the news of his loved one’s deaths last year. Te’o later told ESPN’s College Game Day of the letters Kekua wrote him about her illness.
But according to Deadspin.com, Lennay Kekua never existed. There is no SSA record of her death, no funeral announcement or obituary. She never attended Stanford, and there is no record of such a person involved in a California auto accident. There is no record of her birth. The only place she has ever existed is online—in a few Twitter and Instagram accounts.
And those social media accounts? The photos on said profiles depict a 22-year-old California woman, but her name is not Lennay Kekua. According to Deadspin.com she has never attended Stanford, she was not involved in an auto accident and she does not have leukemia. Moreso, she has never met Manti Te’o.
It was all a hoax. But was Te’o in on it? Was it a cheap publicity grab? According to various media accounts, he supposedly met Kekua after a game in Palo Alto in 2009. Surely he knew she wasn’t real…
Te’o, however, says he was a victim of the hoax.
“I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” he said in a statement cited by ESPN.com. “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.
“In retrospect, I obviously should have been more cautious. If anything good of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.”
But Deadspin.com tells a different tale. Remember the young women whose photos were used on the Web profiles claiming to belong to the fictitious Kekua? Well, she recognized one of those photos as a pic she had privately shared with an old high school classmate, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. She called the classmate, who expressed alarm and ended the call. Moments later, she said, the photo was removed from “Kekua”’s Twitter profile.
Now here’s the catch. Tuiasosopo—who had been the lone person to have access to the particular photo—is friends with Manti Te’o.
So is the star football player a victim or a master manipulator? Based on the evidence, what do you think?
Watch the video below of Manti Te’o speaking about his girlfriend’s death before the hoax was revealed:
[Image via Neon Tommy/Flickr]
I want more stuff like this!