Breaking down the Manti Te’o hoax

Published On January 17, 2013 | By Karoline Zacharer

One of the most compelling stories of the college football season was that of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his performance after the deaths of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, and his grandmother on the same day. However, evidence has surfaced that Kakua was fake and Te’o might just be a very public victim of “catfishing”.

On Wednesday, Deadspin released an exhaustive investigative report showcasing how Te’o and the whole country had been duped into mourning the loss of a person that never existed. They compiled a timeline of events as told through various news sources after Kekua’s “death” was made public by Te’o.

However, many questions as to how much Te’o really knew about Kekua remain. While it seems as if this were an online relationship, Te’o’s father, Brian Te’o, told reporters that the pair would meet when she traveled to Hawaii. The South Bend Tribune even ran an article recounting the couple’s story and telling of how they met back in 2009. However, there is evidence on Twitter that they first contacted each other in 2011, two years later.

Deadspin reported that Kekua was allegedly in the hospital battling leukemia and that Te’o would call her every night, staying on the phone with her while he slept. Clearly, a lot of time and effort was put into this supposed relationship.

After the Deadspin article was published, Notre Dame released a statement saying that Te’o had been duped and Kekua was an “what appears to be a hoax”.

ESPN reports that Te’o notified his Notre Dame coaches on December 26 that he had been the victim of what looked like a very elaborate prank. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Sawbrick said that after Te’o informed his coaches, Notre Dame hired private investigators to do their own research into the matter. They believe that, yes, Kekua was an elaborate hoax and that she never existed in real life.

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About The Author

Karoline Zacharer is a senior at Bridgewater State University majoring in communications. For the past four years, she has covered everything from football to women's lacrosse as a reporter for BSU's Bears Sports Network. She has also written minor league baseball news for You can follow Karoline on Twitter at @KarolineZ.