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Latest News, Updates on Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax Story

In what's sure to be one of the most shocking stories of 2013, Deadspin broke the news that the most inspiring part of Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o's personal story was a hoax.

The Notre Dame linebacker has been a national star over the past six months, gaining fame from both his play on the field and his personal tragedy of losing his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other.

Deadspin stated that Lennay Kekua, the Stanford University student who was supposed to be Te'o's girlfriend, did not even exist, and there is no proof from the Social Security Administration to claim otherwise.

 

UPDATE: Friday, Feb. 1, at 11:50 a.m. ET by Ethan Grant

The second half of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's interview with Dr. Phil McGraw aired on Friday on the "Dr. Phil Show", and the hoaxer's testimony as to why he created this scam was both shocking and saddening in nature.

CBS Sports had the report after the show had finished airing, and here's an excerpt from what happened, in case you missed it:

The 22-year-old Tuiasosopo told McGraw he was repeatedly molested by a family friend beginning at age of 12. Tuiasosopo did not identify his alleged attacker by name and did not say whether he had told police about his claim.

He then went on:

He says creating the fictional persona Lennay Kekua allowed him to live in an alternate reality, and also validated for him that he was a good person on the inside. Tuiasosopo also apologized to Te'o during a portion of the interview broadcast Friday.

---End of update---

 

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 2:55 p.m. ET by Tim Daniels

Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of Deadspin, which originally broke the story, provided more information about Dr. Phil McGraw's talk with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Today was the first half of the two-part interview, which will conclude on Friday.

They report Tuiasosopo stated that he originally wanted to tell Te'o about the situation in November, but decided it wasn't the right time. He said, as previously reported, that the Notre Dame linebacker didn't play a role in the hoax.

Deadspin also passed along a quote from him, in which he discusses whether he fell in love during the course of the hoax:

"I mean, yeah, if I had pretty much had this escape of Lennay from everything else, what my heart and all my energy went into this, as twisted and confusing as it may be, I did all that I could to help this person become a better person even though I wasn't getting nothing out of it. ... The truth of it is that it happened, I grew feelings, I grew emotions that sooner or later I couldn't control anymore."

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 1:25 p.m. ET by Tim Daniels

More details are beginning to emerge from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's interview with Dr. Phil McGraw about the Manti Te'o situation. He admitted to McGraw that he loved the Notre Dame star and said he's telling his story because he's trying to get on with his life, according to Pat Eaton-Robb of the AP.

"You've heard of recovering drug addicts? It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that," he said "To recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not only that, coming back to your real life, as hard as a task as that is I'm going to do all that I can to live right."

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 11:52 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo confirmed that Manti Te'o was not involved with the hoax, according to Chicago Tribune's Staff.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo confirmed in an interview with 'Dr. Phil' McGraw that he was the voice of the fake girlfriend in the Manti Te'o hoax and that the former Notre Dame linebacker was not involved in carrying out the hoax.

McGraw appeared Wednesday on NBC's 'Today' show to discuss his two-part interview with Tuiasosopo, with the first segment set to air Thursday on the 'Dr. Phil Show.'

McGraw said Tuiasosopo told him that Te'o was 'absolutely, unequivocally' not a knowing participant in the hoax.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 10:03 a.m. ET by Patrick Clarke

In a drawn-out interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behind Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend hoax, admitted to falling "deeply, romantically in love with Te'o" according to what McGraw told NBC TODAY's Mike Taibbi.

This was McGraw on one of the interview's more telling moments (via NBC TODAY contributor Scott Stump):

Here we have a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love, I asked him straight up, "Was this a romantic relationship with you?" And he says yes. I said, "Are you then therefore gay?" And he said, "When you put it that way, yes." And then he caught himself and said, "I am confused."

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 25, at 5:10 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

The University of Notre Dame is defending its handling of the Te'o "dead girlfriend" scandal, as reported by the Associated Press.

The AP obtained a letter sent by University president Rev. John Jenkins to the board of trustees on Friday afternoon, in which Jenkins stood behind the school's decisions based on all the evidence involved:

The Rev. John Jenkins told trustees that despite "the unrelenting scrutiny of hundreds of journalists and countless others — and repeated attempts by some to create a different impression— no facts relating to the hoax have been at odds with what Manti told us" on Dec. 27-28.

Jenkins ended the letter like this:

We did our best to get to the truth in extraordinary circumstances, be good stewards of the interests of the university and its good name and — as we do in all things — to make the well-being of our students one of our very highest priorities.

---End of update---


UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 25 at 4:35 p.m. ET by Ryan Rudnansky

None other than Dr. Phil has landed an on-camera interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, according to TMZ.com.

Dr. Phil and Tuiasosopo reportedly watched the interview between Manti Te'o and Katie Couric together and met for "several hours" in Los Angeles.

---End of update---


UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 25 at 9:50 a.m. ET by Matt Fitzgerald

According to a report in the New York Post, Tino Tuiasosopo, the female cousin of hoax mastermind Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, was the voice talking to Te'o on the phone, pretending to be his girlfriend: 

Tino Tuiasosopo convinced the Notre Dame grid star that she was the real deal, calling him at school, telling him she loved him and even sobbing hysterically when another girl answered his phone, several of the woman’s relatives said yesterday.

“Tino is the girl that Manti has been talking to all these months,” said a Tuiasosopo cousin.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 24, at 3:49 p.m. ET by Tyler Conway

Te'o appeared on Katie Couric's syndicated talk show on Thursday and tole his side of the story for the first time on-camera. He spoke on the intricate detail of his relationship with Kekua, about how his emotions were real during the time period and many other subjects.

Here are a few of the more relevant quotes, compiled by KSTP-TV Breaking News' Twitter feed:

 

 

 

 

---End of update---


UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 24, at 8:39 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

 

The New York Daily News' Nancy Dillon and Larry McShane have the latest on the phone calls conducted during the Manti Te'o hoax:

Hoax mastermind Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, posing as the mysterious Lennay Kekua, was the falsetto voice on the other end of the all-night phone calls with the Notre Dame star, the scammer’s lawyer said.

The Heisman Trophy finalist “thought it was a female he was talking with,” lawyer Milton Grimes acknowledged to the Daily News. 'It was Ronaiah as Lennay.'

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 6:15 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

ESPN released Te'o's phone records on Wednesday afternoon—or did it?

Per the ESPN report, the infograph released by the network on Wednesday was not from original phone records or even copies, but from spreadsheets that could not be independently verified:

A source close to Te'o gave ESPN's Jeremy Schaap documents that the source says are Te'o's AT&T phone records from May 11 to Sept. 12, the date that the woman was supposed to have died. The logs are not originals, but spreadsheets sent via emails, and could not be independently verified.

Bleacher Report's own Dan Levy questioned why information on Te'o's phone calls would come in the form of spreadsheets:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 2:20 p.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

ESPN's SportsCenter Twitter account has the latest details on the Manti Te'o situation after receiving Te'o's phone records from May to September.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 8:35 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

Manti Te'o is speaking up again about his ongoing girlfriend saga, and details of his exclusive interview with Katie Couric are starting to leak.

The Associated Press has the latest courtesy of the Washington Post:

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has told Katie Couric that he briefly lied about his online girlfriend after discovering she didn’t exist, while maintaining that he had no part in creating the hoax.

Pressed by Couric to admit that he was in on the deception, Te’o said he believed that his girlfriend Lennay Kekua had died of cancer and didn’t lie about it until December.

'Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12,' Te’o said in an interview to air Thursday on Couric’s syndicated talk show. A segment of the interview with Te’o and his parents was broadcast Wednesday on “Good Morning America.'

For even more details, check out the Washington Post.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 5:14 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

Diana O'Meara, the woman whose photos were used by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo in creating the fictional "Lennay Kekua," appeared on NBC's Today show to set the record straight about her supposed involvement in this case. You can see the entire interview here, per an Associated Press report through the Huffington Post.

 According to O'Meara, the offender called her and apologized for the fraud on Jan. 16—the day Deadspin broke the original story.

Here's a sample of O'Meara's quotes:

O'Meara said she had never had any contact with Te'o, and that for five years, Tuiasosopo "has literally been stalking my Facebook and stealing my photos."

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21, at 10:00 p.m. ET by Tim Keeney

Deadspin has released the entire archive of tweets by both "Lennay Kekua" and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. 

A lot of it is fairly uninteresting Twitter "stuff," but as Deadspin points out, "we (can) witness her interactions with Manti Te'o and the unfolding of a fake life story."

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Sunday, Jan. 20, at 2:05 p.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

Katie Couric will conduct an exclusive interview with Manti Te'o on Thursday's episode of "Katie," according to New York Times' Brian Stelter.

Katie Couric has landed the first television interview with Manti Te’o...

...Ms. Couric’s interview will be televised on Thursday on “Katie,” the syndicated talk show she began hosting last fall, a spokeswoman for the show said Sunday. Excerpts from the interview will be broadcast beforehand on “Good Morning America” and other ABC News programs.

Mr. Te’o will be joined by his parents Brian and Ottilia for the interview. Mr. Te’o apparently misled his father about the girlfriend, claiming at one point that he’d met her in Hawaii.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 9:40 a.m. ET by Patrick Clarke

In a lengthy group of Twitter messages sent to Te'o on Wednesday, Jan. 16 (courtesy of ESPN), Tuiasosopo (posing as Lennay Kekua) confessed, mentioning that he had been contacted by investigators and the media. 

Tuiasosopo also apologized to Te'o throughout the lengthy string of messages, saying that he accepted the consequences and wanted the Notre Dame star to know the truth before anyone else.

Click here to view the entire string of Twitter messages.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2:26 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

For those who didn't catch Jeremy Schaap's interview with Te'o, you can catch the report right here:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2:00 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

ESPN's Brett McMurphy did mention that Te'o avoided one possible pitfall:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1:24 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

According to Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton, three people were behind the hoax:

Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch notes that Te'o did have a girlfriend after Kekua supposedly died:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1:14 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel made note of how Tuiasosopo apologized to Te'o:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1:01 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel mentioned perhaps the most shocking part of all of this:

Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton piggybacked on that detail:

Even so, Te'o did realize how crazy this could look to people (via Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel):

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 12:52 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

Te'o appears relaxed in this photo (per ESPN's David Scott) while interviewing with Jeremy Schaap:

ESPN.com's report from the interview divulged several details from Te'os point of view:

He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that the two had met. Several media stories indicated that he and Kekua had met. Te'o insisted they never did.

He 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.

The first time he met Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Tuiasosopo is the man Deadspin and others have said was behind the hoax. Earlier Friday, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" reported that Tuiasosopo called a church friend in early December crying and admitted to duping Te'o. The friend, a woman in her mid-20s, agreed to be interviewed under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family's safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated.

Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton noted that Te'o did allow this to go on in his own way:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 12:45 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton notes that Te'o was impacted by the hoax during Notre Dame's BCS National Championship loss to Alabama:

Hamilton added this interesting revelation as well:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Saturday, Jan. 19, at 12:20 a.m. ET by Ian Hanford

USA Today reporters Rachel George and David Leon Moore shed some more light on Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who reportedly is behind the Lennay Kukua hoax.

According to their report, Kukua's life mirrors part of the Tuiasosopo's, stating that "some of the false world created around Kekua seems to align with the experiences of the Tuiasosopo family."

Lutu's ( struggle with cancer is one of at least three parallels between actual events chronicled on the Facebook page of Titus Tuiasosopo that match fictional details in the Kekua tale. Lennay Kekua was never in a car accident, but Ronaiah Tuiasosopo in a March wreck. A touching quotation Te'o attributed to Kekua after her reported death was the same one Titus Tuiasosopo previously posted on his Facebook page after a relative died in August.

The parallels don't stop there either:

In Sports Illustrated, Kekua's accident was reported as happening on April 28.

It was just about a month earlier, on March 23, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and at least two male cousins were in a car accident.

The third, and final, parallel is just as strange:

A third parallel comes in a quotation Te'o shared with his teammates before practice on the day he learned that Kekua had died just hours after his grandmother, who did actually pass away that day in September.

According to Sports Illustrated, he told his teammates, "My girlfriend always told me, 'Send roses while they can still smell them, tell people you love them while they can still hear.'"

On Titus Tuiasosospo's Facebook wall, he offered the same message as the family mourned the loss of a relative in August.

"Give roses while you can smell them. Tell them you love them while they can hear you," he wrote.

Nothing seems surprising in this twisted saga, but these details are certainly intriguing.

Stay tuned as more information becomes available. 

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 11:47 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

ESPN.com released the first details from Te'o's interview with Jeremy Schaap late Friday night. Te'o had this to say when asked if he was involved in the hoax:

"No. Never," Te'o said in an interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap.

"I wasn't faking it," he said. "I wasn't part of this."

Te'o also said that he did not make up anything to help his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

"When (people) hear the facts, they'll know," he said. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."

Stay tuned for more details as they are released.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 10:28 p.m. ET by Alex Ballentine

According to ESPN's Josh Krulewitz, Te'o had an off-camera interview with Jeremy Schaap. The details from that interview are expected to be revealed on ESPN after the Dallas Mavericks-Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game:

---End of update---


UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 4:07 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

A report from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser claims that the woman posing as "Lennay Kekua" tried to re-engage the Notre Dame LB in December on the grounds that she had to fake her own death.

Here's an excerpt from the Hawaiian paper—another odd turn in this mind-bending saga:

Manti Te'o has told family and friends that the woman who was the voice of his fictitious girlfriend “Lennay Kekua” called him in December and said she had to fake her own death months earlier to elude drug dealers, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has learned.

The woman, who has yet to be identified, tried to re-engage a relationship with Te‘o months after she supposedly had died of leukemia in early September, the Notre Dame All-American linebacker has told the people close to him. The account was shared with the Star-Advertiser by a source close to the Te‘o family.

This next bit claims that Te'o was mindful of an apparent scam, and asked for proof of this person's existence at the time—seemingly aiding his case of naivety in this hoax:

According to the account, Te'o asked the woman to transmit a photo to him with a date stamp, which she did, but this did not allay his suspicions and he later told his family and Notre Dame officials about being scammed.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 3:35 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

The web keeps getting tangled for Notre Dame, and at some point, it's going to suffocate all those involved.

According to FM Sports Talk 104.7 in Pittsbugh, ND graduate Dan Tudesco set up a cancer research fundraiser for "Lennay Kekua" on Jan. 9—a full two week's after Te'o's supposed revelation to the school—with Notre Dame support and positioning on the school's website.

Here's an excerpt from the story:

Notre Dame took notice of Tudesco's tweets about the fund drive and sent a university videographer to shoot an interview with him. The video was posted on the Notre Dame athletics YouTube channel Tuesday.

According to Tudesco, he had no knowledge of the school's understanding of the hoax, and can't believe they would have promoted his fundraiser with prior knowledge of a fraud:

"It would surprise me that Notre Dame would want to promote this if they knew something like this was going on," Tudesco said.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 1:50 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

According to a TMZ report that is swirling around, Te'o got back on the dating horse fairly quickly after his "girlfriend" had passed away. Here's an excerpt from the rumor, detailing a relationship with a St. Mary's college student named Alexandra del Pilar:

Sources close to Manti tell us ... the Notre Dame star met Alexandra del Pilar the weekend of November 10 -- when Notre Dame played Boston College.

Alexandra, 21, is a student at St. Mary's College in Indiana -- which is close to Notre Dame.

We're told Alexandra and Manti dated for nearly 2 months, but broke up recently.

BustedCoverage.com has also reportedly uncovered pictures and tweets linking the two together, including one of del Pilar at the BCS National Championship game in Miami and another of the pair taking a picture with Santa Claus around Christmas time.

Here is one of the supposed photos linking the two:

Photo h/t: http://bustedcoverage.com/2013/01/18/alexandra-del-pilar-with-santa-photos/

The plot continues to thicken, and this situation apparently has more layers than anyone ever thought when it first broke.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 12:30 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

The loopholes in Te'o's story still exist, and a gathering of his interviews and conversations following the Dec. 6 date that was reported as his breaking point reveal that he kept the story going well past his knowledge of the scam.

According to this ESPN report, the timeline isn't adding up with the current story. Here's an excerpt:

Multiple media outlets have found numerous instances of the Notre Dame linebacker talking about Lennay Kekua as if she had existed after Dec. 6, the date that he and the university say he found out that the girl that he thought he was having a relationship with and who died of leukemia was made up.

According to the reports, some teammates were beginning to start speculating about the truthfulness of Te'o's situation:

"Anonymous teammates have said in the past few days that they questioned the entire girlfriend scenario.

One former teammate told ESPN's Bob Holtzman on Wednesday that players knew the woman wasn't really his girlfriend even though Te'o played that up as his tragic story was being told."

If that isn't troubling enough, ESPN is also reporting that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, one of the supposed conspirators in this hoax, confessed to a family friend that he made this story up as a prank, got in too deep and couldn't figure out how to get out of this hole.

She says Tuiasosopo gave her the tearful confession and account of how he played, what he said was at first a game, on the unsuspecting Te'o. And, she says, he told her that it wasn't the first time he had done it.

"He (Ronaiah) told me that Manti was not involved at all, he was a victim. ... The girlfriend was a lie, the accident was a lie, the leukemia was a lie," said the woman. "He was crying, he was literally crying, he's like 'I know, I know what I have to do.'

"It's not only Manti, but he was telling me that it's a lot of other people they had done this to."

The plot thickens, as we find out more about why this apparent hoax was allowed to continue on for a full month past Te'o's knowledge of the lie.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 10:45 a.m. ET by Tim Daniels

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who was discussed in the last update as the Te'o family's target as the leader of the reported hoax, once tried out for the TV show The Voice, according to US Weekly. The report states he provided an interesting story before his audition.

According to the source, Tuiasosopo told producers he and his cousins started a Christian band together and were on their way to perform at a youth conference in Nevada when they got into a "massive" car accident. He claimed a truck crashed into their vehicle, sending them flip-flopping all over the freeway. He also said doctors thought one of them might have been brain-dead, but miraculously, everyone was fine.

US Weekly goes on to say that he didn't make the show and sources connected to it now believe the story he provided isn't true.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 18, at 9:45 a.m. ET by Tim Daniels

Te'o's uncle, Alema Te'o, spoke with Salt Lake City radio station The Zone for more than a half hour on Thursday about the ongoing situation with the star linebacker. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recapped the comments, and it's clear the family is pointing the finger toward Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

The interview is long and at times a little hard to follow, but it’s clear after listening to the whole thing that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is the target of the Te’o family’s scorn at this point, and that Alema Te’o specifically believes that Tuiasosopo was a "shady character" who was hoping to "get close to Manti for either money or notoriety."

Tuiasosopo was also mentioned in the original Deadspin report. Te'o still hasn't spoken to the media since the news broke, but his family seemingly believes Tuiasosopo played a key role in the alleged hoax.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 5:30 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel re-released his Sept. 23 interview with Te'o, and the information exchanged between the two lies in direct contradiction of his answer to Thamel's question of where the two met:

SI: Where did you meet her in California?

TE'O: She actually came to one of the games. She saw me at one of the games.

SI: October 15, I assume is USC?

TE'O: That was in November. But she saw me at the USC game of my sophomore year. We were still just friends, we were acquaintances.

Based on last night's press conference and Te'o's official statement on Wednesday evening, he was the victim of an online scam. This new report could help reveal the truth of all parties involved—whatever that truth may be.

---End of update---


UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m. ET by Alex Kay

Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde has found that Notre Dame administrators waged an internal debate after the BCS Championship on whether or not to go public with the Lennay Kekua-Manti Te’o hoax.

According to Forde, some university officials desired to immediately release the details of this tragic story when they pieced it all together, while others—those who eventually won out—wanted Te’o and his agent, Tom Condon, to handle the message.

The linebacker and his representatives were preparing to tell their version of the tale this coming Monday (Jan. 21), but Deadspin beat them to the punch and released everything on Wednesday.

An interesting thing of note is that the school apparently knew that this would eventually go public and had no interest in suppressing the information.

"There was never a belief in any quarter that it wouldn't get told," Forde’s source said, and also noted that the details of the hoax began surfacing on campus in early December.

Notre Dame and Te’o had a chance to be honest and forthright with this story, but they simply waited too long.

Its conceivable that public perception of Te’o and the hoax would be much different if he had a chance to come clean first, rather than react to the news.

 ---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 1:45 p.m. ET by Alex Kay

The TMZ staff believes that a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is the one behind the Lennay Kekua hoax.

According to the report, released on Thursday morning, Tuiasosopo served as a representative for the fictional Kekua family and—in a roundabout way—TMZ claims to have photographic proof of this.

Photo Credit: TMZ

Here’s a quick recap of the important details in their story behind the photo:

It begins with an anonymous Notre Dame football fan (nicknamed “Jan” by TMZ) starting a friendship with Kekua via Twitter. After Kekua’s death began being reported, Jan participated in the “Wear a Lei 4 Manti” campaign that garnered media attention.

Due to this attention, a person called U’ilani Rae Kekua, who claimed to be Lennay’s older sister, contacted Jan via Twitter. The two exchanged phone numbers on the Internet and agreed to meet up at the USC vs. Notre Dame game on November 24, 2012.

Jan showed up, but U’ilani never did. It was Tuiasosopo that wound up meeting in Jan in U’ilani’s stead and took the above picture with her.

Tuiasosopo claimed that U’ilani could not make it and therefore gave the appearance that he was a member or significant part of the Kekua family. After the meeting, things soon turned even stranger.

U’ilani apparently contacted Jan to inform her that “Pookah”—the little girl in the picture above—contracted lupus and was dying. She requested and was given an address for flowers, which turned out to be a Tuiasosopo family member.

TMZ discovered that the phone number U’ilani had given Jan also belonged to a Tuiasosopo—specifically Titus, Ronaiah’s father.

These are more interesting revelations in an increasingly curious story, and hopefully someone will get to the concrete bottom of who exactly was behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax sooner or later.

---End of update---


UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 12:50 p.m. ET by Alex Kay

It seems that Manti Te’os teammates were a bit skeptical about his relationship with Lennay Kekua.

According to sports journalist Jackie Pepper (h/t Deadspin):

The Notre Dame football player, who asked for anonymity, told Pepper On Sports, “No we all knew he had only seen her once. But when the media was saying how he went through both deaths we knew," said the source, referring to the back-to-back deaths of Te'o's grandmother and girlfriend Lennay Kekua.

This anonymous teammate believes that Te’o lied, but “the media blew it up.” The source confided to Pepper that he felt the superstar linebacker kept the lie going due to overwhelming media attention surrounding the once heartfelt story.

He went on to note that none of Te’os teammates bothered to make a fuss, even if they were highly suspicious of the relationship.

“We would never bring it up.  But we would look at him when he would get all emotional during media about his girl,” the player said. When asked if he thought Te’o was a good actor, the player replied, “Very good.”  

This is yet another stunning revelation in a story that seems to get more bizarre by the minute.

Deadspin's Tim Burke explains to Dan Patrick how he got the scoop for this Te'o story.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 11:31 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

Updating a previous report, Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton has the latest info on Manti Te'o's interview with ESPN:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 11:26 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

TMZ's staff has the latest on Notre Dame regarding the Manti Te'o situation:

Notre Dame is circling the wagons on the Manti Te'o not-really-dead-girlfriend hoax ... TMZ has learned the school has instructed staff to keep their mouths shut ... or else. 

One person connected to the program tells us ... officials have warned staff, if they speak to the media about the scandal without permission from the University, they will 'never work for Notre Dame again.'

The ND athletic director already held a news conference last night, saying the University believes Manti is an innocent victim who was hoaxed by some cyber-bullies for no apparent reason. 

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 10:42 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin

Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde has the latest on Manti Te'o's interview:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 12:39 a.m. ET by Austin Green

Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune pointed out some interesting timing issues regarding Te'o's quotes and the statements made by Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick.

---End of update---

 

Update: Thursday, Jan. 17, at 12:24 a.m. ET by Kyle Vassalo

Nev Schulman, the director of Catfish, indicates he is looking into the Manti Te'o story and has been in contact with the woman:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 10:30 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

ESPN.com supplied perhaps the most interesting update yet Wednesday evening.

Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia claims that he met Lennay Kekua and actually knew her pretty well, after "he met her in person when he and other Polynesian teammates and Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu went to do charity work in American Samoa in June 2011."

He went on to say this:

"This was before her and Manti," Mauia said Wednesday evening. "I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was -- I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa."

Mauia said Tuiasosopo -- whom Mauia believes is Kekua's cousin -- introduced the two. After the initial meeting, Mauia said he met her at an "after-party" for all of the athletes involved in the camp.

"She was tall," he said. "Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model ... "

He said it is his understanding that Kekua's mother is operating her Twitter account. He said he'd never met her mother. When told by a reporter that she apparently might not have existed, Mauia said: "No, she is real."

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 8:35 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton supplied this interesting quote from Jack Swarbrick's press conference:

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 8:16 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference Wednesday night to shed some light on this mysterious situation.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy supplied one of Swarbick's comments:

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Mark Lazerus supplied another:

Swarbrick also told some previously unknown details (per ESPN's Joe Schad):

Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton noted that Notre Dame was looking into the matter and that the Teo's were planning on releasing the story:

Lazerus also noted that Swarbrick mentioned MTV's popular show "Catfish" as a reference point for this situation:

---End of update--- 

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 6:16 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

Te'o has released a statement concerning these recent developments, and he is maintaining full innocence and naivety when it comes to his role in the recent allegations concerning his girlfriend.

Here's a look at what he had to say, courtesy of this ESPN report:

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her."

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life."

He goes on to add:

"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been."

"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was."

"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."

There are still more questions than answers, but for now, Te'o is taking a stance of disbelief on the issue at hand.

---End of update---

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 5:46 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant

The University of N

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