In the aftermath of the bombshell Deadspin story about star Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend never existing, Notre Dame has released a statement saying Te’o was the victim of the hoax, not the perpetrator of it (full statement below).The school says they were informed about the hoax by Te’o on Dec. 26, and implied that Te’o did not know that Lennay Kekua never existed. The school says the Te’os were victims, and that “someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia.”
Te’o released a statement as well, saying he was the victim:
“To realise that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”
Deadspin reported that Lennay Kekua — Te’o’s “girlfriend” who reportedly died of cancer in September of last year — was an online invention of a man Te’o knew named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. There are no records of her existing, no death certificate, and the online photos of other women (like the one above, that CBS showed in a story about Te’o), were used on Kekua’s public social media profile.
The Deadspin story doesn’t directly say that Te’o knew Kekua didn’t exist, but it quotes a source who said there was an “80% chance” he was “in on it.”
In a press conference, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick said Te’o unequivocally did not know about the hoax.
As Te’o led Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season and made a run at the Heisman Trophy, the story of his girlfriend’s death — which happened the same day that Te’o’s grandmother actually died — became a big deal nationally. SI, ESPN, CBS, and the New York Times all referenced her in stories.
Te’o himself spoke publicly about her repeatedly, claiming that they spoke on the phone at night when she was in the hospital. After a game against Michigan State a week after Kekua’s “death,” Te’o told ESPN in an on-field interview, “I miss ’em, I miss ’em. I know I’ll see them again one day.”
He also references the support of his “girlfriend’s family:”
Notre Dame confirmed in an e-mail that Te’o and his family first brought the story to the school’s attention.
Here’s the full statement form Notre Dame:
Notre Dame Statement: Manti Te’o
On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President
And here’s Te’o’s full statement:
“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. 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 realise that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.
“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.
“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.
“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.
“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”
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