The Manti Te’o Hoax Anthology – Answering all of your important questions


Confused about the Manti Te’o hoax? Too many details to sort through? Here’s a rundown of what we know so far.

10 Is Manti Te’o’s girlfriend real?

As in, does she actually exist? The answer is no. There’s no Lennay Kekua in the United States. At least not one with a social security number and a birthday.

9 Does Lennay Kekua exist in the fake world?

Although complicated, the answer appears to be yes. There’s somebody running around with that name according to Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia.

“This was before her and Manti,” Mauia said Wednesday evening. “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was — I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”

Mauia said Tuiasosopo — whom Mauia believes is Kekua’s cousin — introduced the two. After the initial meeting, Mauia said he met her at an “after-party” for all of the athletes involved in the camp.

“She was tall,” he said. “Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model … ”

He said it is his understanding that Kekua’s mother is operating her Twitter account. He said he’d never met her mother. When told by a reporter that she apparently might not have existed, Mauia said “No, she is real.”

8 What is catfishing?

From urban dictionary:

A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

There was a 2010 documentary about it

The 2010 film, directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, followed a man, Nev Schulman, through his online relationship with a woman he never actually met. Eventually, Schulman discovered that his “girlfriend” had been lying all along, and that her real personality and background were cobbled together from the person (or people) she wanted to be. It’s confusing.

And MTV made a show:

In November 2012, MTV began airing a show based on the documentary, also called Catfish. It follows the same lines: The host (Nev Schulman, actually) investigates online profiles on an individual’s behalf to see if their online girlfriends or boyfriends are who they say they are.

7 Is Te’o in on the scam?

That’s the million dollar question. Or in the case of Te’o’s future in the NFL, the multi-million dollar question. If you believe his statement, he was the victim of an elaborate catfish.

“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. 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.”

6 Is Notre Dame in on the scam?

No. On December 26th, Te’o informed the Athletic Department that he received a call from his dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

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.

5 Who is tweeting on the @LennayKay account?

From yesterday:

Stay tuned. The person behind the catfish may reveal themselves.

4 Who is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo?

If you’re to believe Deadspin’s investigate work, he’s the man behind the hoax.

We spoke with friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who asserted that Ronaiah was the man behind Lennay. He created Lennay in 2008, one source said, and Te’o wasn’t the first person to have an online “relationship” with her. One mark—who had been “introduced” to Lennay by Tuiasosopo—lasted about a month before family members grew suspicious that Lennay could never be found on the telephone, and that wherever one expected Lennay to be, Ronaiah was there instead. Two sources discounted Ronaiah’s stunt as a prank that only metastasized because of Te’o’s rise to national celebrity this past season.

3 Is Te’o gay?

Outsports certainly thinks it’s a possibility. A fictitious girlfriend to keep people from asking questions seems crazy but not improbable.

I can certainly understand why people think this might be pointing to his sexual orientation. There has never been a publicly out NFL player. There has never been a publicly out Div. 1 football player. But we know they’re out there. And if they were out there and wanted to hide their sexual orientation — or a relationship with another man — a fictitious girlfriend is a good way to do it. The fantastic story about car accidents and death by leukemia would just be showing off that stereotypical gay flair for the dramatic.

2 What happened to the South Bend Tribune article?

In October, the South Bend Tribune penned a long article detailing the the Manti Te’o-Lennay Kekua relationship entitled, “What Dreams May Come.”. It has since been pulled. However, this is 2013 and nothing’s ever truly “gone” from the internet.

Here’s an excerpt:

Lennay Kekua was a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan when the
two exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers that fateful
weekend three seasons ago.

She was gifted in music, multi-lingual, had dreams grounded in reality
and the talent to catch up to them.

The plan was for Kekua to spend extensive time with the whole Te’o
family when upwards of 40 of them came to South Bend in mid-November
for ND’s Senior Day date with Wake Forest.

“They started out as just friends,” Brian Te’o said. “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.

“And we came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law.
Sadly, it won’t happen now.”

1 What is Te’oing?

Pretending to be with someone who’s not there as captured by this very excellent Tumblr. Just a few examples.