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Last night, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told the media that Manti Te’o’s relationship with Lennay Kekua was “exclusively an online relationship.”It was revealed by Deadspin yesterday that Kekua — Te’o’s girlfriend who reportedly died of leukemia in September — never existed.
Notre Dame and Te’o released statements saying he was the victim of the hoax, but doubts remain about whether or not he knew about it.
A lot of those doubts are based on past public statements made by Te’o. Despite Swarbick’s insistence that the two never met (he said they planned several meetings but Kekua “never showed”), an October 12 article in the South Bend Tribune by Eric Hansen tells a different story.
The story describes how Te’o and Kekua met at a chance encounter at a 2009 Notre Dame-Stanford football game. From the story:
“Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.”
The story doesn’t quote Te’o. But the paper released a statement last night saying the details for their reporting on Kekua “were given to us by Te’o, members of his family and his coaches at Notre Dame.”
Swarbrick said last night that Te’o and Kekua met online. So it’s clear that someone fabricated the “chance encounter” between Te’o and Kekua.
To make matters more complicated, the story quotes Te’o’s father Brian, who said Kekua came to Hawaii to visit:
“They started out as just friends. Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple.”
That doesn’t explicitly say that Brian Te’o met Lennay Kekua, but it certainly implies that she existed and physically met Manti at some point.
The South Bend Tribune story has been taken off their website, but a temporary Google cached version remains live.
When Te’o finally speaks at length to tell his side of the story, explaining this inconsistency — why did he say he met Lennay when he never did? — will be one the keys to proving he was the victim of the hoax, and not a perpetrator of it.
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