When a huge stories break, the formal responses, downcast columns, and shocking developments don’t seem to cease, and they certainly didn’t on Wednesday night.
As I’m sure you know by now, Deadspin’s article on Manti Te’o's fake (???) girlfriend has gone mega viral. Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick even called a press conference on Wednesday night — just four hours after the Deadspin article had been published — to address the matter (full transcript).
But after that presser, the news didn’t stop. Details surrounding Te’o's now nightmarish tale just kept on coming, sometimes by the minute. Unsurprisingly, the story’s progressions took us even further into the realm on confusion…
8:55 p.m. – Nev Schulman, the star of the MTV show “Catfish”, says he’s been in contact with “the woman involved.”
9:34 p.m. – Former Stanford Defensive Tackle Matthew Masifilo provides an interesting note:
9:54 p.m. - Reagan Mauia, a fullback for the Arizona Cardinals, claims he met Lennay Kekua, Te’o's supposedly deceased girlfriend. “She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model,” he said. Mauia says he’s under the impression that Kekua’s mother is presently controlling her Twitter account, but when given the notion that Kekua might not be real, Mauia replied, “No, she is real.”
9:56 p.m. - South Bend Tribune pulls the October 12th article that reads “the two (Manti and Lennay) exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers.” Thanks to Google, the entire article can still be found here.
At The Tribune, we are as stunned by these revelations as everyone else. Indeed, this season we reported the story of this fake girlfriend and her death as details were given to us by Te’o, members of his family and his coaches at Notre Dame. We’re still trying to put together stories that will be posted later tonight and printed in Thursday’s paper that will answer some, but not all, of the questions about today’s astonishing story.
10:04 p.m. – Column: SI’s Michael Rosenberg questions who was duped: Manti? the media? or both?
10:30 p.m. – A Notre Dame football player speaks on anonymity. “He lied, but the media blew it up.” When asked if the Manti was a good actor, the player responded, “very good.”
10:48 p.m. – @LennayKay, the Twitter account of Manti’s dead (?), fake (?) girlfriend (?) speaks.
11:01 p.m. – Teoing is born.
11:33 p.m. – Justin Megahan (@JustinRMegahan) does some Twitter research and discovers that over a month ago, two people had suspicions, and perhaps even knowledge, about who was running the @LennayKay account. SB Nation aggregated all of Justin’s tweets here.
12:45 a.m. – @JayRahz, a person who was evidently suspicious of the hoax long ago as pointed out by Megahan, begins to tell his story through Twitter.
1:00 a.m. – The other person seemingly aware of the possible hoax from December was @ceeweezy51, who claims she knew Lennay Kekua was a fake from the start.
1:11 a.m. – The Big Lead finds a video in which Te’o tells an interviewer he received a letter from Kekua before Notre Dame’s game vs. Stanford, 31 days after her supposed death.
3:59 a.m. – Tyler Moorehead, a Notre Dame student, gives an inside perspective on the Te’o story:
On Manti’s ND teammates:
The debate among teammates wasn’t whether or not Manti actually knew this girl — it was clear that they had been in contact; no, players just didn’t think that it was fair to call Lennay Kekua Manti’s girlfriend, period (it is well-known on campus that he has had relations with other girls during his time at Notre Dame). They recognized what was going on for what it was — a terrible publicity stunt used to fuel Manti Te’o’s Heisman campaign.
On Manti’s possible intentions:
While I believe Manti Te’o to have an incredibly good heart and to have gotten duped, I will also be quick to point out that he oversold all of this drama in the first place. It was heinous of him to play up a relationship as the love of his life for a girl he had never actually met — I think most people can agree that is ridiculous. And I think Notre Dame had to have some knowledge of the the whole case being significantly embellished but was on board because of the positive press and hype it brought to the university. Could it have been a massive oversight and university officials just took Manti at his word that it was his girlfriend? Absolutely, but I like to think my school’s athletic department is a little smarter than that — it has shown itself to be quite media savvy in the past. I think that Te’o, his family, and Notre Dame all knew what was going on in terms of hyperbole (but not the entire non-existence) and decided to go with it, never expecting the truth to come out.
10:10 a.m. – Yahoo!’s Pat Forde reports that ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap has secured an interview with Manti Te’o
10:22 a.m. – Deadspin Editor-in-Chief Tommy Craggs talks to Poynter about the Te’o piece. Craggs said Deadspin received an anonymous email on Friday, and by Tuesday they had a full draft prepared. Craggs said the entire story was written in Goggle Docs, with he and fellow Deadpin editor Tom Scocca checking in to edit and review the information periodically.
11:16 a.m. – Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune claims the ESPN interview was “scrapped.” The interview never happens.
11:35 a.m. – Jezebel’s Katie Baker writes “Notre Dame Says Manti Te’o Is a Victim. That’s Rich, Considering Their History of Ignoring Actual Victims.”
1:06 p.m. – Pat Forde drops a report saying Notre Dame waited for Manti Te’o to come out and tell his story this past Monday, but evidently, Te’o backed out of that announcement. Notre Dame: “In hindsight, we shouldn’t have given them that time.”
Forde also says, according to sources, Manti notified Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick on December 26th that he has never met his supposed girlfriend.
Could this hoax have caused Te’o's dreadful performance in the NCAA Championship vs. Alabama? Forde’s source:
Te’o lacked his usual spirited demeanor in the days leading up to the championship game. He played very poorly, missing a high number of tackles.
2:30 p.m. – Cosmo joins the fun.
3:07 p.m. – The Big Lead reports that ESPN was aware of the hoax the day prior to the National Championship game — 10 days before Deadspin’s article was published on January 16th. Later, ESPN says the “story is wrong,” and that they received word of the possible hoax on January 10th — three days after the National Championship was televised on its airwaves.
4:36 p.m. – In probably the most riveting update of the day, SI’s Pete Thamel, who’s been receiving heavy criticism for being duped by Te’o and not fact checking his story, released the entire transcript of his interview with Manti Te’o, which was conducted on September 23rd. Manti claims he spoke with Lenny Kekua “every day” on the phone.
Highlights from the interview between Thamel and Te’o:
Manti Te’o is sure what his girlfriend’s major is…
SI: What did she study?
TE’O: She graduated in 2011 or 2010. 2011.
SI: What was her major?
TE’O: Her major was in English and something. I’ll double check.
SI: I can call Stanford and check. They have to have some record or note that she passed.
A very detailed account of how Te’o communicated with Kekua…
SI: Coach Kelly said he was more worried about you this week than last week?
TE’O: It was harder than it was the previous week. I was rolling. The feeling of it settling in that, she’s not physically here no more. You just can’t call her. I talked to my girlfriend every single day. I slept on the phone with her every single day. When she was going though chemo, she would have all these pains and the doctors were saying they were trying to give her medicine to make her sleep. She still couldn’t sleep. She would say, “Just call my boyfriend and have him on the phone with me, and I can sleep.” I slept on the phone with her every single night.
SI: You would literally sleep with your phone on with her on it?
TE’O: With her on it.
SI: When you woke up?
TE’O: She’s be on it.
SI: What would the phone say?
TE’O: Like eight hours. Lucky she had AT&T so it was all free or my family would kill me.
SI: When did you start talking to her all night?
TE’O: When she got in her accident?
SI: So starting in April?
TE’O: Yeah and you know, she was in a coma. I would try, and you know.
SI: Hit by a drunk driver. What were her injuries?
TE’O: I don’t know. She had a lot of different injuries.
SI: How long was she hospitalized?
TE’O: She was in that hospital for about two months.
SI: Wow, did she get out?
TE’O: She didn’t get out. She went from there. Remember she got in the accident and she was in a coma. We lost her, actually, twice. She flatlined twice. They revived her twice. It was just a trippy situation. It was a day I was flying home from South Bend to go home for summer break. It was May. Mid-May. That was the day where they said, “Bro, we’re going to pull it. We’re going to pull the plug.” I remember having this feeling like everything is going to be OK. They were telling me, “Say your goodbyes.” From April 28 to around mid-May, I was always talking to my girlfriend who was on a machine.
SI: She couldn’t communicate?
TE’O: No. She could only breathe. One of the miraculous things was when I talked to her and she would hear my voice her breathing would pick up. Like quickly, and then she would start crying. But her breathing would quicken, and she would start crying. So her brother was in the room with the nurse. They were monitoring her. She said, “Who is she on the phone with?” Her boyfriend. She was like, “That’s amazing. She doesn’t do that with anybody else.” So that happened. And then she flatlined and we were losing her.
The day I went home, that was the day they were going to pull it. They were saying their goodbyes and all that. I said, “Babe, I’m never going to say goodbye to you. If you really want to go, she really missed her dad, so I said, “If you want to go, be with dad, go. Just know that I love you very, very much.” I had this very positive feeling that everything was going to be OK. I landed in Hawaii. By the time I said my goodbyes. Not my goodbyes, my I love you, I’ll see you later, that kind of thing, I jumped on the airplane to go to Hawaii. They were scheduled to pull the plug while I was in the air.
So right when I landed, I was expecting to get a voicemail saying she’s gone. So I landed and I had a voicemail from her brother saying, “Brother, call me back right now.” So you can imagine what’s going through my head. I was like, “What am I going to do? How am I going to take this?’”And so I called him back, the doctor came in and he saw something and he wants to try some treatment on her to see if it works. From there she slowly started to get better. Slowly. Eventually she came out of her coma and she started having memory problems and she couldn’t remember because of the accident. That’s how much damage she had to her frontal lobe. She had memory problems. I was actually the first person that she talked to. She was breathing, breathing. When I talked to her, I would say, “Babe, do you know who this is?” I knew she knew who it was because her breathing would pick up. I was like, “Relax, chill. Breathe slowly. Breathe slowly.” And then, that was when she first started to speak was that conversation. I was like, “Babe, I love you. I love you.” Very slightly she said, “I love you.”
SI: Was that right when you got back?
TE’O: Then she started to make progress.
SI: This is unbelievable.
TE’O: As she started to make progress. She had her good days. And then the next day she’d say, “Babe my back is sore. I can’t feel it. Something is wrong. I don’t know what’s wrong. My chest is burning.” And stuff like that. They said that they took her in and ran some blood tests and that’s when they found leukemia. From that hospital she was treated for cancer and then she went to St. Jude’s. She was in St. Jude’s and then she went to another hospital.
7:30 p.m. – Yep, it gets weirder… Us Weekly reports Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who is allegedly behind the hoax, recently auditioned for the NBC show, The Voice.
According to Us Weekly:
Tuiasosopo told producers he and his cousins started a Christian band together and were on their way to perform at a youth conference in Nevada when they got into a “massive” car accident. He claimed a truck crashed into their vehicle, sending them flip-flopping all over the freeway. He also said doctors thought one of them might have been brain-dead, but miraculously, everyone was fine.
7:45 p.m. - A minor league baseball team announces “Manti Te’o Girlfriend Bobblehead Day.”
8:35 p.m. – Micah Grimes of ABC Action News in Tampa tweets out a shot of Manti Te’o riding a golf cart around the IMG training facility.
8:47 p.m. – Awful Announcing recalls that Manti Te’o uttered this quote to Chris Fowler at the Heisman Trophy Ceremony on December 8th — two days after Manti discovered his girlfriend was fake.
Manti Te’o: I think I’ll never forget the time when I found out that, you know, my girlfriend passed away…
12:12 p.m. – Joe Schad says the man who had deceived Manti Te’o has confessed and that Manti was not aware of the hoax.
This thing is far from over, very far. I’ll do my best to update this timeline as this story continues to unfold. Feel free to leave any relevant links or columns in the comments.