What started as a story of heartbreak leading to a college football star overcoming tragedy is now being called a hoax riddled with questions.
The story which defined a college football team's season was originally about Notre Dame's star linebacker Manti Te'o, losing his grandmother and his girlfriend within 24 hours of each other and going on to lead his team to victory and an undefeated regular season. That inspiring story quickly fell apart after a report that came out Wednesday night by sports website Deadspin.com dismissing as a hoax the existence of Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kakua. This morning on "Starting Point," Deadspin.com's Timothy Burke weighs in on his report and the reactions and statements that followed.
Burke was originally tipped off by an email Deadspin received last week regarding Kakua, and says he and his colleauges started researching the story on Google. Burke says after searching for “Lennay Kakua,” they could not “find any evidence of this person that isn't attached to stories about her being Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend – she did not exist.”
Shortly after the report went viral the university held a press conference saying Te'o was the victim of a "elaborate hoax." Burke says he is not surprised and “Notre Dame has to stand by Manti Te’o. That’s what Notre Dame does.” He adds, “It would not be accepted by their community, by their boosters to throw him under the bus. They’re going to stick by him.” On the other hand, Burke says if he could have offered advice to Te’o and the university he would have told them to not respond to the report and “ignore it because anything that they say is going to be evidence to be used against him.” He says, “Either Manti or his father were lying about how he met her in the first place.”
The Deadspin report also focuses on Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who Burke describes as “a former star quarterback in high school who was supposedly offered scholarships to play in college and never did.” Burke says friends and relatives of Tuiasosopo said he was “doing the Lennay Kakua fake online profile for several years and that he’s caught other people in his trap but that they caught on way earlier than Manti Te’o did.” Burke says this information in addition to the fact that Te’o and Tuiasosopo knew each other and spent time together made him question, “how dense would Manti Te’o have to be to realize this was his friend who was behind the account the entire time?” He concludes by saying, “I don’t believe Manti Te’o could be that dumb.”