Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

January 18, 2013

COLUMN ONE: Te’o hoax leaves journalists red-faced

SOUTH BEND — Here on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, not even the constant gaze of Touchdown Jesus could have seen this one coming.

In one of the more bizarre sports stories of recent memory, it was determined Wednesday that the alleged girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o never existed. Her supposed death, one of the main storylines of the Fighting Irish season and Te’o’s eventual emergence as a Heisman Trophy finalist, never happened according to a report published on Deadspin.com.

Te’o himself confirmed that report with a statement Monday that he was the victim of a hoax in which he developed an online relationship with a person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a 21-year-old Stanford student who he was told died Sept. 11 from leukemia.

Kekua, the Deadspin.com report vetted, never existed. The report went on to quote an unnamed friend of a source that they were “80 percent” certain that Te’o was complicit in hoax, alluding he used the story for self promotion in his bid for the Heisman Trophy.

Te’o, who is reportedly in Florida preparing for the NFL combine, has yet to speak publicly about the matter other than releasing a statement to ESPN declaring he was the victim of hoax, not the perpetrator. Notre Dame officials are standing behind Te’o.

The news of Te’o’s golden blunder could not be escaped Thursday. It dominated sports talk television, radio and websites. Even cable news networks were on the campus quads Thursday setting up live shots as students shuffled to and from class. And this was on a day cyclist Lance Armstrong was coming out that he had used performance-enhancing drugs en route to seven Tour de France titles. Not exactly a slow news day.

Obviously this story is in mid-stream, but regardless of how it turns out for Te’o, this is no doubt a refresher course in the principles of quality journalism.

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