Manti Te'o and Lennay Kekua: Highlighting Their Most Important Tweets
Former Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o is speaking out—again. Te'o will appear on Katie Couric's syndicated talk show on Thursday with the purpose of giving his side of what happened between him and Lennay Kekua, his fake purported girlfriend.
This interview comes less than a week after Te'o spoke off camera with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, when he categorically denied being complicit in the scheme reportedly run by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
But while everyone is worried about Te'o's level of complicity in deceiving the public, it's important to take a step back and look at how this whole mess transpired over the long term. A man doesn't send and receive 1,000 phone calls (via SportsCenter's Twitter feed) without there being some groundwork laid first:
The following is a detailed timeline of the relationship between Kekua and Te'o. We'll interweave tweets from a Deadspin story exposing Kekua's tweets, while also interjecting what we know about what transpired during that time period.
(All tweets are courtesy of Deadspin.)
October 2011: "Lennay Kekua" Joins Twitter, Has First Known Interaction with Te'o
According to Te'o's interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, the Notre Dame linebacker and Kekua first linked up in 2009 when she sent him a Facebook friend request. That coincides with the timeline of the South Bend Tribune's now-proven-false story of the two getting their stares "pleasantly tangled" after the Irish's 45-38 victory over the Stanford Cardinal.
Over the first couple of years of their relationship, things were casual at best between the two. Per Te'o, they would talk occasionally on the phone, through text messages and on Facebook, but it was never more than an acquaintanceship.
That all changed during Te'o's junior year when Kekua called Te'o prior to Notre Dame's contest against Purdue. By Te'o's account, she was having problems with her boyfriend and needed someone to talk to.
The Irish played Purdue on Oct. 1, 2011. One week later, Kekua (then using the handle @lovalovaloveYOU) first appeared on the social-networking website, using the image of a woman named Diane O'Meara, who apparently has no connection to the ruse:
I was born today into the Twitter world.
Two days later, Kekua's first verified interaction with the Irish star happened (@MTeo_5 was Te'o's Twitter handle and still is.):
@lovalovaloveYOU nice to meet u too ma'am
Deadspin's account later has a bevy of tweets from Oct. 13 to Oct. 18, detailing her relationship struggles, mentioning her father's bout with leukemia and an interaction with Te'o where he sent her Twitter followers.
October 2011: Te'o Is Now Kekua's "Babylove"
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
For a girl who seemed heartbroken over her relationship drama, Ms. Kekua certainly moved fast in making her adoration of Te'o apparent. She calls Te'o her "babylove" before Notre Dame's home contest versus USC
NOTRE DAME vs. USC stoked for my Babylove to have a great game! Play your heart out & know that I am cheering you on from this wedding! ❤U#5
According to Deadspin, Kekua was purportedly attending a wedding reception for Jacob and Natalie Reid. There is no record known of any Jacob Reid being married to a Natalie Reid, per a Nexus search done by Deadspin.
Eight minutes later, she calls Te'o her "headache." Perhaps that's a term of endearment in the twisted world of Lennay Kekua:
I'd rather be in South Bend right now. Uggh. 3 more weeks! 2 My headache, @MTeo_5, you better smash on some Trojans! ❤
It should be noted that calling someone "babylove" is no confirmation of a relationship. A quick Twitter search shows that it's a rather innocuous term, bestowed upon whomever anyone so pleases. Kekua also later says she's single on both Oct. 27 and Oct. 30, 2011.
That's an important distinction because there are inconsistencies with the timeline Te'o presented to Schaap later in their string of interactions.
November and December 2011: Kekua and Te'o Are in a Relationship?
It seems by late in the 2011 football season, Kekua and Te'o had begun at least forming some semblance of a relationship. Though no boyfriend-girlfriend status is on record, Kekua sent out a message prior to Notre Dame's game against Boston College on Nov. 19, 2011, calling Te'o her "other half":
IT'S GAMETIME FOR MY OTHER HALF!!! Go Irish! #5 babyyy! Love you Honey! You are most welcome for my amazing pre-game speech! lol GOD BLESS!
Kekua then travels to New Zealand and doesn't make another mention of Te'o or her love life again until Nov. 26. On that date is when the first set of concrete contradictions come in from Te'o's story presented to Schaap and the one he has told others.
At halftime of the Irish's loss to Stanford, Kekua, allegedly a Stanford graduate, says she hopes Notre Dame's halftime adjustments work against her Cardinal. Oh, and she also calls herself Te'o's "#ProudGF":
I'm not a football coach or anything, but I hope these halftime adjustments work. Go #5! Love you Monty! lol #ProudGF Kia Ora!
Three days later, Kekua supposedly underwent an emergency blood transfusion and was rushed to the hospital. A couple of days after that, Te'o or someone pretending to be the linebacker sent out a tweet from Kekua's account thanking everyone for their prayers:
Everyone this is manti. Lennay wanted to thank ALL OF YOU for your prayers. She loves all of you and wants u to know that she is doing ok.
These tweets fly directly in the face of what Te'o told Schaap last Friday. At multiple points in the interview, the Notre Dame linebacker contended he and Kekua's relationship did not escalate until April 28, the date of her reported car accident.
Do you believe Manti Te'o?
Te'o's timeline with Schaap also contradicts what he told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel. According to Thamel, Te'o told him that he and Kekua started dating on Oct. 15, 2011, which puts the "Babylove" and "#ProudGF" tweets in better perspective.
No matter which version of the events you choose to believe, it's obvious that there are some inconsistencies left unaccounted for.
December 2011: Lennay Travels to Hawaii, More Contradictions Spring Up
Following the blood transfusion fiasco, there was little interaction between Kekua and her purported boyfriend on social media. She goes on living a jet-setting life, traveling internationally, while she mentions her boyfriend deleting his Twitter, coinciding with Te'o's departure from the website on Dec. 17:
Goodbye twitter!— Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) December 17, 2011
(Te'o did not tweet again until Jan. 25, 2012)
What's more interesting is the fact Kekua returned stateside in late December, making another trip to Hawaii. From what we know of Kekua's trip, Te'o would not have been in the state during her time there. Notre Dame arrived in Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 23, 2011, and the team was there until after its game against Florida State on Dec. 29.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
According to a tweet from Kekua, she left Hawaii on Dec. 26, at least three days before Te'o could theoretically arrive:
@Nikkybabyyyy beautiful sissy! love it! I leave to Hawaii tomorrow! anyways, have a lovely day! Ofas!
Once again, this timeline contradicts what Te'o told Schaap. According to Te'o, he first lied to his father about meeting Kekua in person around New Year's Day in 2012, no fewer than five days after she purportedly left the state. But here is an exact quote from what Te'o told Schaap on Friday:
Yeah, a few days later, I asked my dad if I could go sleep over at one of my friend's houses and that while I'm sleeping over, I'm going to go try and meet up with Lennay. I go to my friend's house, which was about 15, 20 minutes from where she was at. It was close, but I didn't have a car, and she did. But she said that her brothers were using it and she couldn't get there. So we ended up not meeting. So when I got home, Dad asked, "Hey, did you get to see her?" And, to avoid all the questions, I just said "Yeah, Dad, I saw her."
It should be noted that this was during a period when Te'o had deleted his Twitter, so he would have had a hard time knowing this without looking at his girlfriend's feed.
Kekua later returned to Hawaii in February 2012, a time when Te'o could have been in his home state. But if this is the instance he's referencing, then there's some major date-fudging going on.
February 2012: Te'o and Kekua Reconnect on Valentine's Day/Kekua's Birthday
For the first month and a half of 2012, the connection between Kekua and Te'o went radio silent. The two shared a rather curt interaction on Feb. 8, when Kekua told Te'o that she was glad "all is well" with him.
It wasn't until Feb. 14—Valentine's Day and Kekua's purported birthday—that the pair linked back up. Here is a string of tweets the two sent to and seemingly about one another on that day, which is still well before Kekua's car accident:
Happy birthday to my girl and best friend @lovalovaloveYOU have a great 22nd birthday grumpy!
Happy Valentine's Day to my best friend, superhero & my VALENTINE, @MTeo_5 Thanks for everything and may God bless you! iLoveYouXO
When you fall in love with your best friend, you'll discover everything life has to offer except THE END. #Love
April-May 2012: Lennay Gets into a Car Accident, and the Aftermath
The first few months of 2012 are where the interaction between Kekua and Te'o slows down noticeably. She says she loves him and calls him "babe" on Mar. 18, but the newest developments in the story come from Kekua alone.
She changes her Twitter handle to the now-infamous (@LennayKay) on Mar. 22 and quickly thereafter sets her profile to "private," making her followers the only people able to see her tweets. All information obtained from here on out will be courtesy of Te'o, whose account remains public, and others who retweeted or quoted Kekua.
Also noteworthy: On April 9, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the purported mastermind behind this scheme, was in an actual car accident.
Nineteen days later, the woman whom he was pretending to be coincidentally went through a life-threatening crash of her own. Here is U'ilani Rae Kekua (@iloveyoualani), Lennay's purported sister, sending out a heartfelt message about her kin's battle after the crash:
:'(((( @LennayKay I love you! Don't give up! I can't see my life without you! You've always been a fighter babygirl! We trust in you God!
It was also on that date that someone pretending to be Kekua's brother called Te'o and told him she was in a coma after being in a car accident. Te'o has consistently referred to this crash as a turning point in his relationship with Kekua.
For his part, Tuiasosopo later sent out his prayers to Kekua on Twitter, and seemingly added another wrinkle to the story by insinuating the person at fault for her crash was driving under the influence:
Praying for Lala! You can do this! Keep fighting Sis! For those of you who ever plan on driving drunk, don't be selfish. Sad. Love you!
It was later in May when Tuiasosopo and Te'o started having more frequent interaction on Twitter, calling each other "sole," a Samoan term of endearment that essentially means "bro."
June-August 2012: Kekua Struggles With Rehab, Gets Diagnosed With Leukemia
"Be strong. Be brave. Never give up." That was the phrase of the summer for the love story of Manti Te'o and Lennay Kekua. It was first sent out to the public on June 23, while Te'o was trying to support his girlfriend's recovery after the car accident:
@LennayKay Be strong. Be brave. Never give up. Love u.
That phrase, which is derivative of Psalm 31:24 in the Bible, again came from Te'o a week later. Deadspin describes this as "a somewhat oblique" announcement of Kekua's cancer diagnosis:
RT @LennayKay: Be strong. Be brave. Never give up. #Papa
A little less than a month later, Te'o continues to use the phrase as Kekua purportedly battles with leukemia:
Be strong. Be brave. Never give up. #3words @LennayKay
It's worth noting here that while Te'o never went to visit his sick girlfriend, Notre Dame camp did not open until Aug. 3. According to Te'o, visiting Kekua during this trying time "never really crossed my mind," per Schaap.
Sept. 12, 2012: Lennay Kekua Dies
A little more than two weeks into what turned out to be a magical season for the Irish, tragedy strikes Te'o's life. On Sept. 11, 2012, Annette Santiago, Te'o's grandmother, passed away at age 72.
Less than 24 hours later, Te'o suffers another loss, as he once again gets a call from Kekua's brother with bad news. At 4 p.m., Te'o shared his grief about the death of his girlfriend on Twitter:
@LennayKay you will always be with me wherever I go! Tell dad, BJ, papa Ima, papa Santiago, and grandma that I said hello! I love you! #574L
At the wishes of Kekua, Te'o forgoes her funeral to play in the Irish's game against Michigan State on Sept.15. He records 12 tackles en route to Notre Dame's first huge win of the season versus the then-No. 10 Spartans. After the game, head coach Brian Kelly hands Te'o the game ball and tells him it's for Kekua.
Notre Dame goes on to an undefeated season, with Te'o's story garnering massive media attention. With his newfound fame helping spur his story, Te'o finishes second in the Heisman Trophy balloting behind Johnny Manziel.
On Dec. 6, just days before the Heisman Trophy presentation, Te'o discovers something that changes everything.
Jan. 16, 2013: Ronaiah Tuiasosopo Comes Clean
With Deadspin's report looming, the man behind this devious and twisted plot finally comes clean to Te'o. In a series of direct messages over Twitter, Tuiasosopo came clean about his involvement.
Kekua was Tuiasosopo the whole time, with accomplices helping him weave an intricate web of lies that deceived Te'o for more than a year. Here is a look at the most relevant messages Tuiasosopo sent Te'o on Jan. 16:
And that, my friends, so ends the tale of what we know about the twisted romance between "Lennay Kekua" and Manti Te'o.
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