Te’o denies involvement in fake dead girlfriend hoax


On Wednesday, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o issued a statement characterizing himself as the victim of a hoax involving a fictitious girlfriend who faked her own death.  On Friday, Te’o submitted to an off-camera interview in the presence of his lawyer that, absent thorough questions or detailed observations regarding his credibility from ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, operates as a press release masquerading as an actual interrogation.

The initial story at ESPN.com is basic and short, and it offers no opportunity to scrutinize anything about what Te’o said.

“No.  Never,” Te’o said regarding whether he was involved in the hoax.

I wasn’t faking it ,” Te’o said. “I wasn’t part of this.”

He also denied any embellishment to boost his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy.

“When [people] hear the facts, they’ll know,” Te’o said. “They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”

Fine.  So when are we going to hear the facts?  And from whom are we going to hear them?

We have a lot of respect for Jeremy Schaap.  And because of that immense respect for Schaap we’re more than a little surprised that he’d be a willing participant in a clumsy and grossly incomplete effort by the Te’o camp to honor Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick’s vow that Te’o would be speaking about the situation without Te’o having to actually say anything of substance or to address the many questions and inconsistencies arising from the various reports that have emerged to date.

It would be better if Te’o had said nothing.  In reality, that’s what he has done.

UPDATE 12:30 a.m. ET:  An updated version of the ESPN.com story notes that the interview lasted 2.5 hours.  So why isn’t there more detail being offered in the initial story than self-serving denials with no specifics or details?  Hopefully, the whole thing will be transcribed and published.

91 responses to “Te’o denies involvement in fake dead girlfriend hoax

  1. “When [people] hear the facts, they’ll know. They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”

    So tell us what they are Te’o!

  2. The most believable turn this story could take would be that his father is really behind all of this. In everything I’ve read, Manti’s dad comes across as a psycho, and his dad also claimed multiple times to have met Lennay Kakua. I’m not ruling it out.

  3. Jeremyn Schapp better have more than him just saying I didn’t know or do it!!..or he’s full of chit too!

  4. Ok, so he said he spoke to this girl on her death bed? If this Rosinah or whatever his name conspired all of this, then who’s the chick he was talking to on the phone? So there’s two people who were interesting in duping this guy? Or he was lying about how they met, talked, and met the family just to not make seem really weird that he fell hard for someone by strictly chatting. Either way, he was complicit in making this story bigger than it needed to be.

  5. Agents are not PR professionals. His agent is grossly mis-calculating this “interview”and is doing his client more damage that Mantei realizes. So many mistakes have beeb made. Sadly, no one is getting through to Mantei that he has to get out in front of this runaway train, and that gets increasingly hard with each passing hour

  6. I still believe he’s in on it. He has to convince me he’s not because everything I’ve read makes it very hard to believe he isn’t. And the fact is even when this Tuiosopop guy says Teo knew nothing I’m just going to think Teo paid him to take all the blame.

  7. sucks when you have an imaginary girlfriend and she dies…and then have her actually come back and haunt you

  8. As much as people & the media want to hear what happened, too many people act like they’re OWED an explanation. I even heard Michelle Tafoya say he HAD to and he has no choice or option.

    There is no criminal investigation here. No testifying.

    Personally I think the dude just needs to keep his mouth shut to the public and only answer the NFL coaches when they interview him for the draft.

  9. Maybe he’s taking legal action at this point so talking about it can considered accusation against the accused, and if the kid isn’t proven guilty he gets sued for publicly tarnishing this guys name

  10. If someone deems it worthy to have a lawyer present when telling his side of his story where he is describing himself as the victim of a hoax leads to more questioning of your credibility.

    Secondly for a respected journalist such as Jeremy Schapp has be depressing for him, being that he has spent money years building up his level of respect through his work to now losing a level of clout that he had.

    Cant be surpassed that a network that employs numerous former Irish players is now aiming to protect him, not even wanting to question of the story the Notre Dame or have an actual interview.

  11. Please tell me Schaap asked these questions and we just haven’t heard about them yet:

    “Why did you say you met Lennay Kakua after one of your games?”
    “You said you knew her through your cousin. Was your cousin in on the hoax? How did he know her?”
    “Why did you say you spent time with her in Hawaii?”
    “Why did your father claim to have met her?”
    “Who did you talk to on the phone every single night?”
    And many more…

  12. For a young person like me, one of the most frustrating aspects of this story is that some people are saying, “Well, I guess young people now think that texting and talking digitally constitutes as love.”

    NO. No one is that stupid! I do not know a single person my age who would consider someone they had never met their girlfriend or boyfriend. Nor do I know anyone who wouldn’t be suspicious after not meeting for an entire year.

    Oh, and she is supposedly in a coma in the hospital and at another point getting chemo, but Manti never stops by to visit her? What?? That’s not how you treat a girlfriend whom you claim to love.

  13. The interview was 2 1/2 hours long. Right now we know nothing more than what little has already been reported.

    Te’o might be full of excrement, but I prefer to wait to hear everything he has to say in his own defense plus evaluate any evidence yet to come rather than making snap judgments.

  14. I have a feeling that even if Te’o is telling the truth about what happened, it won’t change many peoples minds or opinions of him. But the longer he waits, the worse he looks.

    The question that really should be asked though is whether he had any knowledge of where the luekemia donations were sent to. Maybe that’s why he has an attorney. There could be legal action taken against him if he is involvd with that.

    His best bet is to just get it over with and move on with his life.

  15. First of all what dad hears his son on tv talking about the love of his life and don’t question whos this person and when he say dad I never met her,his father should have had a long talk with him,something fishy with this story and its not catfish

  16. “Personally I think the dude just needs to keep his mouth shut to the public and only answer the NFL coaches when they interview him for the draft.”
    Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. You can be a part of (or victim of) a hoax for 3 years, continue to publicly perpetuate this hoax, solicit sympathy through interview after interview after interview in all known media, and then clam up when caught (or exposed as a victim of a hoax). That is why you NEVER open Pandora’s Box…it is tightly closed or all they way open. There ain’t no third choice.

  17. Thanks for the update. Maybe Te’o will wind up saying something relevant after all. If he can reasonably explain why his father talked of his eyes locking with a nonexistent woman at a football game … or why he continued to talk of her tragic death after he’d told Notre Dame it was hoax … I’ll listen.

  18. green41563 says:
    Jan 19, 2013 12:04 AM
    How can ANYONE plausibly argue that he wasn’t in on the hoax when he repeatedly claimed to have a girlfriend that, it turns out, he never met?


    Its comments like this that are frustrating. I’m not here to defend Te’o or claim that this is all perfectly normal, because clearly this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of in sports. But this comment reflects a total lack of understanding what is being alleged and what appears to have happened.

    Its not 1950 anymore. There is this thing called the internet. Many people, most of them not famous athletes, meet people online through a variety of sites – including social networking, but also gaming and dating sites, too. It is up to the people involved to define to determine the nature of their relationship, and, as weird as it may seem, this is something that is happening in our society right now.

    I think the way this all came out, it did certainly seem like Te’o was involved in the scheme. That is many peoples’ intuition. I know most people just want to be drive-by observers, make a joke, and move on. But it seems apparent that the person behind the hoax has done this on numerous occasions to other people, and started doing it when Te’o was in high school. It isn’t difficult for me to believe that the kid – who is a devout mormon and abstains from physical relations with women – thought he met someone who he shared values with and developed a relationship with her. Then he played it up because the media loved it.

    I think there has been a depressing lack of empathy (not sympathy, but empathy) demonstrated by a lot of people in the last 48 hours. Everyone looks at like “that would never happen to me, so it couldn’t have happened to him,” and I just think that is incredibly ignorant.

  19. Schaap is saying it was a convincing story. I just don’t know how. First of all, the guy is a media hound and he insisted this be ” off camera. ” 2nd, he needed a lawyer. 3rd…what kind of a boyfriend NEVER goes to see his dying girlfriend? Never. 4) why was he seeing other young ladies if the phone gal was the ” Love of his life” 5) Still no answer about why he kept perpetuating the story when he found out at the very least, that she was not dead.

  20. Well if Notre Dame says he found out on Dec. 6 and Te’o is lying, then that’s irrefutable proof that he played a part in perpetuating the hoax. He should be filing a lawsuit against Notre Dame for putting out false information. Unless he’s lying about playing no part in this.

  21. Ok, Let me get this straight. You are Manti T’eo. You have a home in Hawaii, Heisman runner up, the riches of the NFL await you and you are the face of, for what was for a time, the Number 1 team in the country.
    At a school that is as football crazy as any in the country.
    You go to class with THOUSANDS of gorgeous coeds everyday that would do anything to have a piece of everything that I previously mentioned.
    But rather than participating in dates, parties, and etc. with these gorgeous young women who are throwing themselves at you at every opportunity, you are sitting in front of a computer …….Nah, what else ya got

  22. All the facts better be laid out and in his favor at this point. If that doesn’t happen some GMs could very well move him off their 1st round board.

  23. Schaap was itching above his head during his on-air segment. Which any Seinfeld fan will tell you, means Schaap was not being completely truthful.

    Schaap looked like he was apart of the hoax team on Friday night. Sad day for a good reporter- but that has been common with this story.

  24. And i’m sure waiting until midnight on a Friday night was planned either, Te’o.

    This kid is a phony. Flat out.

    You may have been duped but you’re not innocent either.

  25. Schaap says that Te’o showed him text messages between this he, this girl, and his parents. Te’o showed him Facebook postings going back a long way. Te’o showed him the apology that Tuiasosopo allegedly sent him on Twitter.

    Te’o is obviously providing some evidence to back his story. But the major evidence people want to see seems to be some proof of these endless phone calls, which Te’o continued to say happened even in his interview with Schaap.

    If he provides some texts and tweets but never delivers on the phone calls, no one will believe him.

    But if he does prove the phone calls happened, what are the people accusing him going to say then?

  26. I watched Schaap’s post interview video reports on ESPN. I was irritated by his reporting and felt that he was in Te’o’s corner, being Te’o’s mouthpiece.

    I was left with the feeling that Manti Te’o is either a very skilled liar or is simply a delusional young man. I’m surprised at how aggravated I am with this story. I’m going to just leave him alone.

  27. I forget which game, but I can clearly remember that in the post game interview that he said something about how hard it was or him to lose his grandmother and girlfriend in the same month, sooo…

  28. Updated version of the story reports that Te’o admits that he lied to his father about having met the Leenay in person and “catered” his story publicly to make it seem as though he had met Leenay in person.

  29. It’s amazing how the public eats up these slanted media accusations. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Everyone’s demanding we here from manti, and every day he doesn’t speak he becomes more and more guilty…. Yet no one blinks an eye at the fact we haven’t heard a single accusation from tuiasosopo of mantis guilt! No one else finds that odd that while manti has now made two statements now in an attempt to clear his name, the tuiasosopo side has not said a word to clear themselves.

    Maybe we should stop rushing to judgement based off of a very blurry and slanted picture the media has painted, and allow the truth a little time to present itself before we pass judgement…

  30. Manti was a well known good guy at ND. He passed up the pros to help his team get to the title game. There is no way he was in on this. He got suckered by a cancer story just like everybody else.

    Watch the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with Steve Martin and Michael Caine about the workings of con artists and that will explain it all.

  31. Are you kidding me? How does nobody get this? A Mormon kid playing football made up the fact he was in a relationship with a woman. A woman. The MORMON CHURCH and the culture of football seem to share an intolerance an individual who may be percieved to be in a relationship not with a woman. Perhaps that individual has a lot to lose if that perception gained footing in the public forum, and therefore, before risking family ostratization and millions of possible future dollars, created a fake girlfriend to seem like one of the guys. Get the picture yet people? It’s 2013 by the way.

  32. Ahh. The ever important court of public opinion. Where everyone’s guilty until proven innocent and everyone knows more than the person involved.

    This story has taken a complete 180 and now it appears as though Te’o truly was the victim in this prank. Shocking!!! Media was wrong? Football player was the victim?

    No way!

    We’d all rather believe a conspiracy for Heisman votes. Makes for a better story

  33. He just went from a 8 year 2 team vet to a 5 year 3 team has been. Whether or not he’s involved, this will haunt him the rest of his life. He’ll never live it down or escape its enormous weight.

  34. Damage control #1, don’t let your client speak, especially if he’s going to come across as an immature, naive simpleton. Problem with that is the NFL combine includes sessions with teams where you don’t get to have your attorney and Jeremy Schapp in the room.

    Here’s an actual question from the Wonderlic, hows he going to answer this one?

    Wonderlic question #14:

    Assume the 1st 2 statements are true. Is the final one:

    1) True 2) False 3) Uncertain

    Ron met Manny. Ron met Lenny. Lenny is Manny’s girlfriend.

  35. I’ll be very disappointed (but not surprised by Jeremy Schapp and ESPN) if there is not a question like:

    Reportedly you found out about a fake death in early December, why were you talking about her as a real person after that?

  36. So Te’o talked for two and a half hours, and basically said nothing?

    And Jeremy Schaap torpedo’d his own career, for THAT????

    I love it when a guy talks that long, and says “someday when the facts come out” …… ummmmm, wasn’t that the point for the interview in the first place, Manti?

  37. deeper……..and deeper………and deeper…….sorry notre dame/teo there is just too many things that point to whole lotta lying for a generic statment to clear up.

  38. First, an “anonymous” woman shows up to declare Manti’s innocence – how convenient that she prefers anonimity – then, Manti selects the most bleeding heart liberal to “interview” him. Yes Manti – I’ll believe anything you say!

  39. A Florence, Ky minor league baseball team, The Freedom, has announced a Manti Te’o fake girlfriend bobblehead night. Fans will receive an empty box upon entering the gates. Section 115 will be blocked and reserved only for fans to sit with their imaginary friends, girlfriends/boyfriends or spouses. There will also be a make pretend kiss cam, air guitar contest and an imaginary food fight outside the Airheads Kids Zone.

  40. The more I hear about this story the more I don’t believe this dude. He absolutely owes the public a statement given the misleading hype that was created during the Heisman run. He also owes the public that backed him in the “Leis for Lennay” and “Raise 5 for 5” campaigns on the Notre Dame campus. The longer this goes on, the lower his stock will fall in the draft. He’s coming off as an immature & selfish individual, and it will hurt potential endorsements from companies like Subway, Under Armor, Nike, Adidas, Gatorade, ect.

  41. I don’t care that he wasn’t involved in creating the girlfriend. What I care about is the what some of his team mates with common sense were annoyed with- that he played up this dramatic series of events with a girlfriend he hardly knew. Seriously, the copious amounts of interviews and coverage about a women he had never met in person. IMO he didn’t know anything about her character, etc., if that’s the only way they interacted- in fact, it would be the exact opposite if they spent 4 hours plus a night on the phone sometimes. The only pass he gets at all in my book is that he is still, after all is said and done, a naive college kid (like there aren’t enough of those already).

  42. i hope jeremy schaap plays this guy and his team like they tried to play him with this friday-night no cameras “interview”. if schaap was juvenile (he isn’t), he’d sit on whatever info is in this sit down until the next week’s news cycle, and let Te’o have to fight it off all week again.

    i can’t make any judgements about the kid yet until he says anything, but he seems awfully guilty of the accusations that he was in on this. there are just too many lies here to make a bed out of.

  43. Wow… lots of people wearing tinfoil hats and looking for a conspiracy.

    He got duped. He finally figured it out and probably was forced in joining those that duped him into the cover up story that she died.

    They needed it to all go away and that was the quickest way to do it.

  44. You can’t coach judgement, instinct, straightforwardness, or speed.

    All four are working against Te’o as he hopes to get drafted high.

    The kid will still get drafted and might have a successful career, but I would put my money on him being more “Roland McClain-esqe” than “Ray Lewis-esque”.

  45. Gullible; yes. Still a great role model and player. He made some mistakes but I guarantee we all make more mistakes than this kid that got sucked into a sick prank. For those that have followed him, you know what a great person he is. I look forward to following him in the NFL. Go Manti and go Irish!

  46. I watched Schaap’s post interview video reports on ESPN. He seemed to be in Te’o’s corner, being Te’o’s mouthpiece. He kept shifting his weight (rather conspicuously) as he spoke and at one point even admitted that he sounded like an apologist.

    I was left with the feeling that Manti Te’o is either a very skilled liar or is simply a delusional young man. Arrested development? or something else.

  47. Te’o might want to contact Oprah and schedule an interview to get all the facts and truth out in the open. Too many conflicting stories around this issue and the longer he waits like Lance Armstrong did will be far more damaging for him. Let Oprah ask the hard questions, tell the truth, get it over with and move on with the draft. I think the majority of people may be willing to forgive and forget if there is fault on his part with straight forward, honest answers from him but the longer this story continues with conflicting “facts” and no on camera interviews, the more intolerant people become and thus the story continues to smell fishy!! This topic isn’t going away without it being addressed by Te’o. That’s reality in our world today, like it or not.

  48. Wow
    at a bare minimum he garnered nationwide sympathy for a lost girlfriend that he loved so much that couldn’t even be bothered to attend the funeral. Yeah, great roll model.

  49. okay, i have a different, way out theory. it’s pretty conspiratorial but i think this GF was created in order to send money to Te’o from various sources, notre dame itself being one of them. think about it.. a girl who doesn’t even exist sending money to his bank account (which, to be fair he has denied) is the perfect way to cover tracks. this kid is from hawaii, and a mormon – so he decides to go to a catholic school in indiana!?!? doesn’t make sense. and then he conveniently kills her off so as to tie off any loose ends and, hey, get some sympathy in the process. this other dude Tuiasosopo, was basically just making sure she had a bank account and ran her social media to keep things looking legit. because if its his girlfriend sending money, it doesn’t look as bad as if its coming from a booster. and plus they can’t even investigate her since she’s off the grid, so to speak.

    i haven’t thought it out very long but in a case this weird, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn the university was behind it. and nothing in this country ever happens without a reason. and that reason is money 98% of the time.

  50. If he really wants to clear his name once and for all, Te’o needs to just come up with his phone records showing these calls he made and received and let a reputable company take a look at his computer and verify that emails were received and sent from his computer to this mysterious girlfriend. Let’s face facts here, it is very hard to email from a personal computer in a way that is not recoverable. My bet is that this will never happen because I believe his whole story is a bunch of garbage. As far as the NFL is concerned, when they realize that the players they invest in have to have some moral fiber, as well as the necessary skills to play, they will avoid the hassles of what to do when Truths come out, and Truth always seems to have a way of coming out in the end.

  51. if money was collected for charity and he knew she did not exist, then he is culpable for fraud. that is why he had a lawyer with him.

  52. Show me the phone records that prove he talked every night for 8 hours! This guy is a fraud and ESPN reporters are fools for entertaining he is just the victim of an elaborate hoax.

  53. The myth of Te’o meets the myth of Notre Dame. This is an all hands on deck damage control situation for Notre Dame. The university is pulling out all the stops and putting untold resources to craft this very very carefully to their benefit and protection. Some how I think Notre Dame was in on this lie at very high levels in their faculty,administration or both. What did Notre Dame know and when ,is now the question.

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