Bustin’ Loose Thursday 01-17-13 Timothy Burke, the writer who broke the story for Deadspin regarding the apparent Hoax of Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend, joined the “Bustin’ Loose” show with Frank Garcia to talk about the bizarre story they uncovered.
The timeline to this story has been key to unearthing the hoax, and Tim began the conversation by chronicling how this unbelievable story unfolded.
“We initially started starting looking at this simply because someone sent us an anonymous tip that said, ‘something is weird about this Lennay Kekua character. You should check her out.’ And so, what’s the first thing that you do when you want to know something about something? You Google it. And right away, we Google it and find every single result about her is a reference to her being Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend. There’s no other evidence of her existence on the internet. She doesn’t have a personal webpage. She doesn’t have any Youtube comments. She doesn’t have anything. She’s nowhere to be found. No records of her school or anything online. Then that gave us a heads up that this is something worth pursuing.”
Then he spoke specifically of when perhaps Te’o may have figured out this was all a hoax.
“Well, his official timeline is that happened in late December. There’s a good number of reasons to suspect that isn’t true; among them, that he knowingly allowed his father and the media to continue spreading this origins story of how they had met after the 2009 Notre Dame / Stanford game. Or that it appeared in the South End Tribune that she had visited him several times in Hawaii. These are things that Manti knew were being reported and he never corrected it. Whenever a reporter asked him about her, he never set the story straight. And then how many times did say something along the lines of I know that I’ll see her again, or she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. Those aren’t really things you say about someone you’ve never met. So there’s just some question about them.”
When asked if Notre Dame may have started to suspect something with this story may have gone awry, he had this to say.
“We made attempts to get a response from Notre Dame and they never got back to us. We’ve gotten people inside the locker who have claimed they know. But those things never really shake out… I think that there are people who are very close to Te’o who probably knew more about what was happening to Te’o more than anybody else. But when you factor in that the kid, who we think is behind the fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was someone that Manti Te’o knew, that really opens it up to a lot of people knowing what was going on. And, certainly, we talked to a lot of people who knew that this was happening.”
Amidst this whole story, is the fact that there must be some incentive for someone in creating this hoax, and Tim mentioned that is a major part of trying to determine who exactly was behind all of this, if it was indeed the guy they suspect, Roniah Touiasosopo.
“Think about the amount of energy, time, effort and money it would cost to have a 24/7 alter ego that you had to respond to. You had to be someone else all the time. Who would do that? Let’s imagine that [Touiasosopo's] a rational person, what rational person would do that, knowing that there is no incentive for it? If you’re assuming everyone involved is a rational person, and is rationally thinking, the only person who has any incentive for a fake girlfriend with Manti Te’o, is Manti Te’o.”
Notre Dame’s role in all of this is a peculiar one, and he responded to a question regarding whether or not he thought that if Deadspin had not broken this story, would anyone involved ever say anything about it.
“ESPN claims claims they were days away from publishing. I am skeptical about that. I’m also skeptical that Notre Dame had this private investigating firm research all of this. I’m very skeptical about that, because we talked to the people who actually know what’s going on and we know that nobody talked to them. So, I’m just skeptical about those sorts of things having ever resulted in anything. I think the real question is: Why is the website, Deadspin, the one that has to do everything other media organization’s fact checking?”
He then spoke to that very aspect of this story and how completely irresponsible so many many media members were in feeding the frenzy this hoax has ultimately turned into.
“You could just say this is sloppy reporting by poor journalists, but there are very good journalists and fantastic writers who published things that never happened. And when you realize that people, who some of the best in the field, as journalists, are writing these things, you realize that there was a fundamental breakdown. That something about the elements of this story, was so captivating, and so magical, that it fed into a mystique that prevented people from rationally, and logically, questioning it. I mean, we found five different dates, even in five different publications, for the day that she died. How is that even possible? And how did nobody else notice it?”
Lastly, we wondered if Tim thought the central figure in this crazy tale, Manti Te’o, would ever come out and do an interview to tell his side of it all.
“As somebody who really cares about him, I hope for Manti’s sake that he doesn’t speak. I hope that, for his sake, he doesn’t mention this episode ever again, and that nobody does. And if he gets asked about it, he says ‘no comment.’ And [I hope] he says ‘no comment’ for the rest of his career, because that’s truly the best thing he could say. And the reason for that is, if he continues to emphasize the story, we’re the ones talking about it, and the more that we talk about this story, the more it turns Manti Te’o from ‘Super Star Linebacker’ to Manti Te’o, the guy with the fake, dead girlfriend.”