Schaap tells Te’o’s story, who admits he never met fake, dead girlfriend


Under the guise of a “get,” ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap has been enlisted as an unofficial P.R. agent for linebacker Manti Te’o.  And Schaap spent extensive time on SportsCenter presenting Te’o’s side of the story, serving as the indirect mouthpiece for a man who claims no involvement in a hoax but who after months of talking freely and loosely on camera suddenly has no desire to do so.

Schaap opened his extensive on-air monologue by vouching for Te’o’s credibility.

“He answered every question I asked,” Schaap said.  “He didn’t seem nervous.  He seemed to be able to communicate clearly about everything that had happened over the course of several years in his relationship with Lennay Kekua.  To my ears, he made a very convincing witness in his own defense.  I’m sure people will form their own judgments when we have a chance to put out more of what he said.  I don’t know how many questions were asked, but as I said he answered all of them, really unflinchingly.  If he’s making up his side of the story, he’s a very convincing actor.  Of course, there were suggestions over the last couple of days — more than suggestions, theories posited — about whether he was a party to this hoax, if he just helped perpetuate this hoax.  He adamantly denies having anything to do with it, and I asked him directly about that.”

After Schaap explained the situation for roughly 10 minutes, he was asked about Te’o’s demeanor.

“He was very composed, he was very collected,” Schaap said.  “There wasn’t any hemming or hawing.  He certainly seemed to have his timeline down straight.  I did not detect any inconsistencies.  And I think, you know, significantly from his point of view anyway, when it was over he was relieved.  He said he was very relieved to have unburdened himself of this.”

Schaap vouched for Te’o’s  credibility once again in explaining why Te’o didn’t want to do the interview on camera.

“Obviously we would have preferred to do this on camera,” Schaap said.  “He felt more comfortable in a setting without cameras, felt he could be more relaxed without a lot of people in the room.  Wanted this to be as natural a setting as possible.  I think it would have been beneficial to him to do this on camera because as I said he was very composed and collected but that’s not what he wanted to do.  It’s not the first time somebody hasn’t wanted to do an interview on camera.”

Schaap is right, but it’s the first time the otherwise camera-eager Te’o has spurned a camera.  And so instead of giving the audience at large an opportunity to watch him explain himself, the conduit to Te’o’s overall credibility is the guy who was granted an interview that Te’o didn’t have to give at all.  That fact naturally will make the interviewer — whoever it is — more inclined to paint the subject of the interview in a positive light.

Indeed, a questioner less friendly to Te’o’s predicament could have led the report with this statement:  “Te’o admitted that he never met the fake dead girlfriend, and that he lied to his family about meeting her.”  Choosing to focus on that aspect of the interview at the outset of the report would have prompted many to instantly wonder whether, if he lied to his family about meeting her, he’s lying to the rest of us about his lack of involvement in the hoax.

“I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well,” Te’o told Schaap.  “So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”

In a court of law, having someone admit to a lie is powerful, because it gives the lawyer more than enough ammunition to argue that everything the person says shouldn’t be taken at face value, and possibly shouldn’t be believed at all.

And while Schaap claimed he detected no inconsistencies, Schaap’s explanation of Te’o’s ongoing references in the media to his dead girlfriend after learning that she wasn’t dead speaks to a stew of potential inconsistencies that, if fully and completely probed, could expose a flaw that would be fatal to Te’o’s entire story.

“[Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick] said that on December 6, Te’o got a phone call from a person who he believed to be Lennay Kekua, who he thought had died on September 12,” Schaap explained.  “Te’o says he did get that phone call on December 6, but that did not convince him that this had all been a hoax.  That took longer to get around to.  But between December 6 and December 26, when he went to Notre Dame to tell them about the problem, he continued to talk about Lennay Kekua, his girlfiend, in several interviews, including an interview with our Chris Fowler during the Heisman Trophy presentation on December 8th.  And [Te’o] explained why that happened, because he said he wasn’t convinced that Lennay Kekua hadn’t died, that she was a hoax, now he was thinking maybe she was alive.  She had given him some story about drug dealers.”

So why did he keep referring to her as being dead?

There are more tidbits that appeared not in Schaap’s on-air report (or in the original story that contained only 32 words from Te’o regarding his denial of involvement) that make us wonder how Te’o could have been oblivious to the existence of a hoax, which based on his admission that he lied to his father would cause a reasonable person to wonder whether he’s lying to the rest of us now.

First, the latest article says that “T’eo tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a ‘black box’ and wasn’t seen.”  Second, the article says that Te’o “planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.”  Third, the article explains that “Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money,” but that “Te’o did not provide his account number.”  Fourth, the article says that Te’o didn’t go see her in the hospital when she was recovering from a car accident or battling leukemia because “it never crossed my mind” to do so.  Fifth, the article says that Te’o didn’t attend Kekua’s funeral because “her mom didn’t want me to come.”

Perhaps the strangest question arises from Te’o’s claim to Schaap that, as explained by Schaap on air, “[r]ight up until a few hours before the Deadspin story broke two days ago [Te’o] wasn’t quite sure what happened but at that time he got a phone call from Ronaiah Tuiasospo in which he admitted that he had perpetrated this hoax and in a series of communications also apologized for it.”  The notion that Te’o “wasn’t quite sure what happened” until “a few hours before” the story broke doesn’t mesh with the very clear picture painted Wednesday night by Swarbrick of extensive meetings and a private investigation with a comprehensive report, or with the reported plan by Te’o to go public with the hoax two days before the story broke.

The only conclusion that we draw from any of this is that it’s still too early to draw any conclusions.  Te’o’s uncle has raised a potential financial incentive via raising funds for leukemia victims hasn’t been explored and wasn’t even mentioned anywhere in the on-air or online ESPN reports.

If Tuiasosopo used the fake dead girlfriend as a way to raise money, with or without the knowledge or assistance of Te’o, the appropriate authorities should look into the situation.  Indeed, the request for checking account numbers could be enough to green light a criminal investigation.  A high-profile case like this one would, if any laws were broken, send a strong message of deterrence to anyone who is tempted to “catfish” not for sport, but for profit.

67 responses to “Schaap tells Te’o’s story, who admits he never met fake, dead girlfriend

  1. New Craze that will take the NFL by storm – “Te’oing” – Tackling players who are not really there!

  2. I don’t buy this at all. He’s had plenty of time with lawyers and handlers to get his “facts”straight, and to plant some evidence making him look good.

    That network is a parody. Too many questions left unanswered. The first being, how does someone stay in a “relationship” that long without meeting or getting some face time?

    One fact we do know is that the kid lied. Would you want this kid leading your defense? Would you want this kid to be a face of your franchise?

  3. Case closed. T’eo was duped from the beginning. Found out about a month ago it was a sham. Then had to choose between public humiliation before the national championship or keep his story going. I would have done the same thing.

  4. “There wasn’t any hemming or hawing. He certainly seemed to have his timeline down straight. I did not detect any inconsistencies. And I think, you know, significantly from his point of view anyway, when it was over he was relieved. He said he was very relieved to have unburdened himself of this.”

    Must be from all the practicing he’s been doing with the ND PR department. Of course he had the timeline down straight, he’s been going over this daily for the past month.

    So now we’re supposed to believe that he isn’t a con artist, just an habitual liar? OK, that’s MUCH better.

  5. I want the full story and the difficult questions to be asked as much as the next guy, but regardless of what has happened I give Te’o credit for his efforts to take a very measured approach to the setting in which he responds

    This kid is 22. He’d be an idiot to put himself in a circus like atmosphere of a press conference.

    If he’s willing to come absolutely clean with all that transpired, but in his own setting on his own terms, that’s his best shot at getting through this with a semblance of draft stock, let alone credibility (which are not necessarily the same thing)

  6. Really? The only two people who have actually talked to Te’O and heard his side of the story, Swarbrick and Schaap, both came away thoroughly convinced that he’s telling the truth. Swarbrick is going on the facts obtained by an investigation firm, and Schaap mentioned a number of pieces of evidence (private tweets and emails) that Te’O showed him to back up his story.

    Also, while it’s true that Schaap may have been somewhat favorably disposed toward Te’O since he granted him the interview, it seems to me that he has a much stronger incentive to be tough on him. Wouldn’t it be great to be the guy who nailed Te’O? Wouldn’t it be a pretty big black mark on his career if he went on the air saying he believed Te’O, and it later came to light that Te’O is lying?

    I’m pretty shocked, actually, that Schaap’s interview doesn’t seemed to have lessened the number of people in the media who are assuming the worst about Te’O.

    This is the same kind of journalistic cruelty, though on a much bigger scale, that Cutler got when he ‘faked’ his injury (except, oops, it turned out it he didn’t fake it.) If Te’O is ultimately exhonorated, a bunch of people in the media owe him a HUGE apology.

  7. Any doubters must realize how much $$$ is at stake here!!

    His team of consultants (prob mainly lawyers and PR specialists) had plenty of time to gather all of the facts and come up with a story that puts this guy in the best possible light for this particular situation.

    Furthermore, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Te’o has an arrangement for his friend to take the fall for this one. Of course once Te’o gets his signing bonus his old buddy gets a few hundred K.

  8. Seems like the purpose of this article is to lambast both Te’o and Schaap. You bring up some good points about what wasn’t included in Schaaps report but it seems clear that the purpose of Schaaps interview wasn’t to bury Te’o six feet under. That’s called building a rapport with an athlete so when they finally decide to do an on camera interview they look to you since you haven’t been malicious towards them. That’s why people like Schaap get these interviews and not you Florio.

    The facts will come out fully at some point, and from Te’o, so until then please quit whining about the lack of an on air interview and provide some objective insight into the matter.

  9. Visiting her didn’t even cross his mind? And Schaap was ok with that? I’m no reporter but I can think up about a hundred follow-up questions for that. What a schill.

  10. Wow bspn going soft on an interview from someone they’ll want more interviews from.

    What a shocker.

    Another piece of fantastic work from the worldwide joke of sportscasting. Haven’t had them on my tv in about 6 years now and don’t miss them at all.

  11. Let me recap this for everyone so we can put it to rest:

    1. Te’o meets someone on Facebook with the profile name Lennay Kekua, which is really operated by Ronaiah Tuisasosopo and his two cousins.

    2. Te’o talks online and on the phone to the three people pretending to be Lennay for 3 yrs. The hoaxers know Te’o and try to tailor their personality or conversations to make it seem like they have a unique connection with Te’o to keep up the ruse.

    3. Over the years Te’o repeatedly tried to meet this girl but was unsuccessful. Lennay Kekua is not Te’os gf in the traditional sense, but someone he feels he has a connection with moreso than just an acquaintance. Think of it as girlfriend limbo.

    3. In April 2012 the hoaxers tell Te’o Lennay was involved in the car accident. Manti Te’o, being the kind of guy that cares about what happens to others, grews to care even more deeply about his online ‘girlfriend’ Lennay because she is having such bad fortune. If a friend of yours who you felt connected to a terrible misfortune, you would probably be more invested in their recovery too.

    4. When Te’o gets the call in the ND locker room on Sept ’12 hours after his Grandmother died from Tuiasosopo pretending that Lennay died, he was genuinely distraught. He told his teammates that it was his ‘girlfriend’ who died from leukemia, because how do you explain to a bunch of guys that your ‘online female acquaintance that you have a deep personal connection and care for’ just died. First, the guys would shrug it off as hey, you never met her no big deal. But Te’o is the kinda guy that cared for Lennay’s well-being, even though he never met her, and he was genuinely distraught that someone he talked to repeatedly over the previous 4 months he was never going to speak to again. That’s a hard pill to swallow then and there. The guys on the team took it as Te’o lost his ‘girlfriend’ in the traditional sense, as in someone he’s met, someone he’s been with and loves, and the story spreads like wildfire.

    5. Te’o has no choice but to stick with his story that he met this girl Lennay, otherwise people would think he’s a crazy guy who is distraught for a online girl he’s never met. He knows that she is not his traditional girlfriend, but figured he wasn’t hurting anyone because he truly cared about her and her well-being, because of all the time they shared on the phone talking to each other. So he let the media because his loss was greater than it was.

    Bottom line: it wasn’t a hoax concocted by Te’o. He just had a very unique, somewhat strange connection to a girl that he met online, whom he never met in person, that he cared for as more than just a friend. When that friend what he believed was the terrible misfortune of being in a car accident than stricken by cancer, he became even more emotionally involved for a girl that in normal circumstances you wouldn’t normally do. The world we live in being what it is, once the media got a hold of it, things spiraled out of control and Te’o was stuck, either tell everyone this strange friendship he had or just stick with a more traditional story of a bf losing his gf.

    No more conspiracies, it’s over, kaput, time to move on.

  12. Te’oing – having a relationship with a fake person/entity.
    Tebowing – having a relationship with a fake person/entity.

    I don’t see the difference.

  13. Florio, usually you annoy me, but you are doing a great job sticking it to Softball Schaap here. Keep it up.

    I’m surprised Schaap didn’t come on the air wearing a Te’o ND jersey and a lei.

  14. I don’t understand why ESPN is protecting Manti? I listen to Mike and Mike in the morning and they talk like he is the victim, other than ESPN there isn’t a journalist that believes him.
    Look at it this way. You are the most popular kid on campus, and you have a girlfriend for 3 years that lives across the country you never met? I was young once and I will tell you it doesn’t add up. A heterosexual male would not have spent 3 years in this situation.
    My only question is did he make this up for the college awards or because he is gay?

  15. Ronaiah Tuiasospo deserves jail time for what ? ta’o being gullible.. who has a 2-3 yr gf without having intimate relations by then i dont know about you but if im a star linebacker at nd im striking while the iron is hot there are plenty of fish on campus

  16. Jeremy Schaap has lost any and all credibility he ever had or hoped to ever have, for being a stooge for this farce of an “interview”.

    He didn’t ask the basic questions, let alone the tough ones …..

    Te’os story is so full of holes it makes Swiss Cheese look good. He’s either in this scam up to his eyeballs, for whatever reasons, or he’s the dumbest jock ever, who simply can’t believe the lie is over. My guess is the former.

    Te’o doesn’t want people to look at him like a “crazy dude”?

    Too late for that, dude.

  17. Original ESPN story said this:

    “A group of people, including a woman claiming to be Kekua, showed up at the team hotel for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te’o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the hotel lobby. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.”

    They’ve scrubbed it to this:

    A group of people related to Tuiasosopo showed up at the team hotel for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te’o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the hotel lobby. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.

  18. He was projected to go 9th in the draft to the Jets, so he created this story so his draft stock would drop.

  19. Of course he was unflinching and confident- the man is a bold faced liar. He lied to his dad without flinching, and he told the story of staying on the phone eight hours a night without flinching. The fact that he can lir to Schaap without flinching should surprise no one!

    Release the phone records if you want people to even begin to start believing you!!!

  20. Wow that was bad, sorry let me edit that:

    3. If a friend of yours who you felt connected to *suffered* a terrible misfortune….

    5. So he let the media *believe* his loss was greater….

    Bottom line: When that friend *had* what he believed was….

  21. me’to is lied or his father to lied! !!.His father give interview saying that his girlfriend come to Hawaii when his son was at home.and he said she was a nice girl. SO WHO LIED

  22. Manti is with out a doubt a part of this. This is like listening to a ten year old get caught in a lie and try to lie his way back out of it. Except the isn’t a ten year old. This is a famous young man thats about to be worth alot of money. Why hasnt anyone considered that Tuiasosopo wasn’t offered money to go along with this, or offered money to say he was the only culprit? I just think that person that doesn’t see or attend a funeral of someone they think to be the love of their life is fishy.

  23. The first thing I want to see is the phone records showing all the all night calls to ‘her’ in the ‘hospital’ room. Then I want an explanation from his dad on how he could have met her in person. Don’t hold your breath for either.

  24. People acting like Manti has no shot of playing in the NFL forget the fact that there are guys with 10 kids with 8 women, murderers, felons and generally awful human beings in the league. But if you can make the plays, none of that matters in the slightest. If Manti can be a 150 tackle a year guy, his personal life effectively doesn’t matter.

  25. @supremecommander…

    So why would it never even occur to him to visit this ill person he cared so deeply about? Also, why would he continue to bring “her” up, unprompted, to the national media in interviews (that he was all too eager to do at the time) after he (allegedly) found out “she” was fake?

  26. One fact we do know is that the kid lied. Would you want this kid leading your defense? Would you want this kid to be a face of your franchise?

    Please the outrage is misplaced when a certain linebacker playing Sunday has done so much worse. I find you outrage to be very short sighted.

  27. Sorry, but I just don’t trust ESPN (TASS). They were complicit along with Notre Dame in leading the hype parade for this guy. More importantly they wanted to be the “first” to interview this weirdo and perhaps agreed with Teo’s handlers that only shallow/softball questions would be asked.

  28. No one’s answered the more important question of what the great significance is if he or anyone else makes up a fake girlfriend. Anyone?

  29. Where’s old Howard Cosell when we need him? Howard would skin this guy alive. Then he would nail Schaap.

  30. This is easy. Produce those records showing he spent hundreds of hours on the phone with this girl. If he does that he goes from being a blatant liar to just a complete moron.

  31. “I’m surprised Schaap didn’t come on the air wearing a Te’o ND jersey and a lei.”

    I don’t think Schaap ever got leied.

    Schaap seems like the kind of guy who can empathize with getting ‘catfished’ from his own personal experience.

  32. Oh, to be clear, I was referring to today’s report and excerpts(Saturday), not Friday’s where they played more of Manti’s actual responses. Today, after playing one recorded Te’o response for approx. 5 seconds before they switched to Schaap reading Manti’s answers for the bulk of the report. Weird.

  33. Mike, get your own scoop and go find Ronaiah Tuiasospo. THAT interview will be much more revealing than anything that Te’o fabricates.

  34. This guy’s an idiot…I’m sorry, but really how can someone be this nieve and dumb?

    A girlfriend he’s never seen? But he goes to a college full of them and this is the best a “captain” of a football team can get? A chic he hasn’t seen? Hasn’t got with in 2 years? She’s no girlfriend, she’s a pen pal then. He’s been saying its his “girlfriend” and thats where he’s “confused”.

    Sorry, just not buying it. I totally think he played it up or used it for a good story. If not, then he deserves the ridicule anyway for just believing its his girlfriend.

  35. Te’o has had more than his deserved five minutes of fame.

    Please, let’s talk about something of import.

  36. So, ESPN runs full-out with the dead girlfriend story without confirming anything–even still running stories after they knew she hadn’t graduated from Stanford and that there was NOTHING on her via background checks–and now they just blindly accept the liar’s explanation? At any real news network, Schaap would be fired for how he handled this story.

  37. You imply that Jeremy Schaap is an “unofficial P.R. Agent for Mante Te’o” operating under the “guise” of a get – allows the reader to infer that he’s not journalistically honest.

    Isn’t a reporter or any media type allowed to gather facts and draw their own conclusions, much like you a dozen or more times a day, every day for over twelve years?

    Also, Jeremy Schaap has asked a lot of tough questions to difficult subjects (e.g., the Bobby Knight interviews). He’s not afraid to follow the facts and his beliefs, whichever way they lead him.

  38. rao50858 says:
    Jan 19, 2013 10:47 AM
    Te’oing – having a relationship with a fake person/entity.
    Tebowing – having a relationship with a fake person/entity.

    I don’t see the difference.

    The difference is you can prove the former but not the latter.

  39. Why are we still hearing about this at all? The poor kid got scammed by some jerk on the internet with a sad and romantic story. He’s not the first and won’t be the last. The sad thing is that some reports say that the incident might hurt his draft standing. How does that even come into the picture?

  40. Jeremy Schaap’s long winded babble is the only overkill worse than this write up for a 16 magazine heartthrob story.

    Does anyone really care?

  41. I think it’s funny how some apologists keep saying, “He was fooled, not his fault.”

    Here is the full quote from Te’o when he was asked why he never visited his internet girlfriend (whom he said he was madly in love with) while she lay dying in the hospital.

    “I don’t know. It never crossed my mind. I was in school.”

    That’s the quote from the ESPN transcript.

    I don’t think it’s even *vaguely* plausible that he honestly believed his girlfriend was in the hospital and honestly didn’t think it was necessary to visit her before she “died from leukemia.” He must have known by then she wasn’t real.

    Read the transcript – “It didn’t cross my mind to visit my terminally ill girlfriend in the hospital.” is basically what he said.

  42. He still lost two close family members in the same year. It was a still a hard loss… He didn’t get to go to his grandmothers funeral, even though he really wanted to. He also lost his grandfather in jan2012.

    Give the young guy a break he didn’t sign up for all this media craziness.

    Seems to me he cared about someone that didn’t exist and felt great shame.

  43. Everyone lies…. Still doesn’t change the fact that he is backed up by ND players and coaches as a good person. We are going to judge someone on a lie that gone blown out of proportion. He did mean to deceive the whole world… Maybe he was did want to appear like a fool to his friends and family for having a girlfriend he never met in person. So much hate for someone who made a mistake show what class of people really are…. Judge lest not ye be judged.

  44. Everyone lies, sure they do. I told my boss I was sick last week when I wasn’t but you are an idiot to compare the two lies. Teo knew, there will be sources that will find the actual truth here and it ain’t going to look pretty!

  45. Yeah he kept all of this to himself so as not to embarrass himself and Notre Dame. so during the game He and Notre Dame did just that. embarrass themselves in front of the whole nation. Either way he is a loser. He kept quite to garner Heisman votes. give me a break. Loser.

  46. “Fourth, the article says that Te’o didn’t go see her in the hospital when she was recovering from a car accident or battling leukemia because “it never crossed my mind” to do so. Fifth, the article says that Te’o didn’t attend Kekua’s funeral because “her mom didn’t want me to come.”

    And that ladies and gentlemen is all the proof anyone should need. Can we move on now please?

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