Holes emerging in Te'o's defense

Posted: January 18, 2013

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Not once but twice after he supposedly discovered his online girlfriend of three years never even existed, Notre Dame all-American linebacker Manti Te'o perpetuated the heartbreaking story about her death.

An Associated Press review of news coverage found that the Heisman Trophy runner-up talked about his doomed love in a Web interview on Dec. 8 and again in a newspaper interview published Dec. 10. He and the university said Wednesday that he learned Dec. 6 that it was all a hoax, that not only wasn't she dead, she wasn't real.

On Thursday, a day after Te'o's inspiring, playing-through-heartache story was exposed as a bizarre lie, Te'o and Notre Dame faced questions from sportswriters and fans about whether he really was duped, as he claimed, or whether he and the university were complicit in the hoax and misled the public, perhaps to improve his chances of winning the Heisman.

On Wednesday, Te'o and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the player was drawn into a virtual romance with a woman who used the phony name Lennay Kekua, and was fooled into believing she died of leukemia in September. They said his only contact with the woman was via the Internet and telephone.

Relying on information provided by Te'o's family members, the South Bend Tribune reported in October that Te'o and Kekua first met, in person, in 2009, and that the two had also gotten together in Hawaii, where Te'o grew up.

Among the outstanding questions Thursday: Why didn't Te'o ever clarify the nature of his relationship as the story took on a life of its own?


 

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