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Manti Te'o Defended By Notre Dame After Girlfriend Hoax

Paige Brettingen |
January 17, 2013 | 10:26 a.m. PST

Executive Producer


Notre Dame said Manti Te'o's grief was real (Photo by Neon Tommy)
Notre Dame said Manti Te'o's grief was real (Photo by Neon Tommy)

Notre Dame has stood behind its star linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Mati Te'o saying he was the victim of a hoax after it was revealed on Wednesday that the story of his girlfriend dying from leukemia was untrue.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Te'o told Heisman officials  on Dec. 26 that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, did not exist.


  • "In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help, that as this hoax played out in a way that called upon those tendencies of Manti, it roped him more and more into the trap," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help."
Te'o learned his girlfriend never existed about three months after her fake death, said Swarbrick, when he "received a phone call Dec. 6, while at an awards show, from what he believed was Kekua's old cellphone number. The woman on the other end — in a voice he recognized as Kekua's — told him that she wasn't dead. She later tried to "rekindle the relationship," according to Swarbrick.
  • "Every single thing about this, until that day in the first week of December, was real to Manti," Swarbrick said. "There was no suspicion it wasn't. No belief it might not be. And so the pain was real. The grief was real. The affection was real. That's the nature of this sad, cruel game."
According to Fox News, MTV's "Catfish: The TV Show," which centers around helping Internet users meet their online love interests, has reached out to Te'o via Twitter, asking if they can use the story.

“I know how you feel,” the show's host, Nev Shulman, wrote to Te’o. “It happened to me. I want to help tell your story & prevent this from happening to others in the future. Let’s talk.”

Find more Neon Tommy coverage on Manti Te'o here.
Reach Executive Producer Paige Brettingen here. Follow her here.




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