Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax
If you followed college football this year, particularly Notre Dame, you've probably heard of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who had an amazing season, and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. He did it after losing his grandmother, and his girlfriend, within six hours back in September. His girlfriend, 22-year-old Lennay Kekua, had been in a serious car accident, and then had subsequently been diagnosed with leukemia. Or that's the sad, inspirational story that he shared with the media, and commented on throughout the remainder of the season.
Manti's grandmother DID pass away, there's a record of that, but as Deadspin.com discovered, there's no record of his girlfriend's death, because there's no record that she EVER EVEN EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE. The site broke it all down in an exhaustively comprehensive report, where NOTHING added up. Basically, everyone just ASSUMED Lennay existed, because Manti said she did, but no one actually had any proof that she was real.
The case against Lennay's existence was AIRTIGHT: In addition to their being no record of her death, there was no record of her funeral, her accident, her hospital stays, her birth, or her alleged graduation from Stanford. Stanford had no record of her at all, and neither did the Internet, aside from a few Twitter and Instagram accounts. And in those, the photos of Lennay were actually pictures of another girl on Facebook, a girl who had never met Manti. It goes on and on from there. (You can find the full report at Deadspin.com.) Obviously, Manti had some explaining to do, especially since he can't exactly duck out of the public eye. (He's currently preparing for the NFL Draft, where he's expected to go in the first round. Or at least WAS expected to.)
And he has. Later yesterday, he released a statement admitting that . . . he was DUPED, and that someone had played a "sick joke" on him. He said, "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 realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been."
Notre Dame backed him up, releasing a statement saying that Manti and his family had come to them on December 26th, and explained he 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 athletic director says Manti had discovered the scam weeks before that. Manti told him that when he was at the ESPN awards, which aired December 6th, someone called him from Lennay's phone number. He explains, "When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead."
Naturally, this raises a TON of questions: For starters, Manti and his family have insinuated that he not only talked to her at length on the phone, but that they'd also met in person. However, it's unclear if that happened, or how it could've. Also, Deadspin seems to believe that the hoax was run by some guy named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, because he's the only link between the REAL girl in Lennay's photos, and Manti. Manti and Ronaiah are friends, or so their interactions on Twitter would suggest.
So it all boils down to this: Is Manti REALLY stupid enough to have maintained a relationship, with a"girlfriend", for at least a year, without realizing that she isn't real? By the same token, is this Ronaiah guy, or whoever was involved, REALLY clever enough to keep this ruse going for over a year, not to mention willing to spend the time and energy to do it? That brings up even bigger questions: What's the motive? Why would someone spend over a year playing this elaborate, cold prank on Manti? What would they have to gain, that would be worth all that time and effort? Or if Manti WAS involved, what would he have to gain by helping to execute this elaborate story? Would the publicity and attention be enough to warrant a scheme of this magnitude?