There are millions of questions this morning regarding the mystery involving Notre Dame's star linebacker Manti Te'o and his girlfriend. In September and October, Te'o told interviewers that his girlfriend and his grandmother had died within hours of each other. Te’o was then inspired him to honor them with sterling play on the field and ultimately led his team to a 20-3 routing of Michigan State.
Deadspin.com, acting on an anonymous e-mail it received last week, started poking around. Wednesday night the site released a report dismissing as a hoax the existence of Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kakua. This morning host of CNN's Reliable Sources Howard Kurtz and Daily Download Editor in Chief Lauren Ashburn join “Starting Point,” to discuss whether the media should have done more fact checking on Te’o’s supposed girlfriend.
"As this became a bigger story and as CBS was doing it and then 'Sports Illustrated' and ESPN and the others, you know you look back...it would have taken one phone call to discover that there was never any death notice," Kurtz says. "There was never any record of her birth...she didn’t go to Stanford.”
Kurts says the university’s role is "pathetic." "Notre Dame officials said they found out December 26th it was a hoax [and] allowed other news organizations to go forward without saying a word and to perpetuate this myth, this piece of fiction as if it was a real story," he says.
Ashburn points out that “the role of social media reporting in the Deadspin article is fascinating.”
"All of the pieces started to come together and...as reporters learn more about the functions of social media the opportunity for doing real reporting on via Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts exists,” she says.
Ashburn admits that the story of Te’o and his girlfriend was a “puff piece” and not “Enron, it still journalism. You still have to get the facts right.”
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.”
A New York based newspaper has sparked outrage this morning after its decision to publish a map pinpointing the addresses of people with gun permits. Published in The Journal News, which is based in White Plains, New York, the map shows homes where public records indicate someone living there holds a gun permit. It was part of an article called "The Gun Owner Next Door," and the newspaper says the information shown came from public records. It has readers online furious. Blogger Christopher Fountain is one of those readers, and he decided to strike back by posting the home address of most of the leadership and staff of The Journal News.
Fountain, who is a gun owner, says that The Journal News defended publishing the gun permit owners' addresses for safety purposes, but Fountain disagrees with the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence. He tells "Starting Point" that he decided to post the journalists' information because he felt that the newspaper "was bullying gun owners by conflating ... West Chester County gun owners with a horrible incident in Newtown, Connecticut ... one has nothing to do with the other." He adds, "I felt that they were using this to harass gun owners ... so I harassed them back."
Fountain's blog, "For What It's Worth", can be found at christopherfountain.wordpress.com
In his new article called "Acceptable to Be a Fan" on ESPN's grantland.com, Bryan Curtis discusses the rules of college football fandom. Curtis says it’s acceptable to be a fan if you graduated from the school, flunked out of the school and taught at the school. Also if your child attends the school or you wanted to go to the school but was prevented, then Curtis says you are also a real fan.
On the other hand, if you grew up down the street from the school, you have family that went to this school but you yourself did not attend or went to an Ivy League institution instead – then you cannot be a fan.
ESPN's Bryan Curtis explains.