The exposé that revealed the girlfriend of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o to be an elaborate hoax came together in less than a week after the initial email tip.
Reporters for Deadspin, the sports blog that uncovered the hoax, investigated Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, after receiving an email tip suggesting that her identity might be fake. The blog found no records to corroborate reports in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the New York Times, and countless other outlets that said Kekua was a student at Stanford University and died after battling Leukemia. The report debunks the well-tread storyline that Te’o played the season under the burden of both losing his grandmother and Kekua within hours of each other just before recording 12 tackles in the big game against Michigan State, which the Irish won 20-3.
Deadspin managing editor Tom Scocca explained on Morning Joe that it took just five days to uncover that Kekua never really existed.
“We get a lot of tips. We get a lot of weird tips. A lot of the time it turns out there isn’t an NFL coach in jail for DUI at that moment," Scocca said. "In this case, our guys started looking into it and they kept not finding her. Which is a weird experience to not find someone, because this whole thing started out with proving a negative.”
Writers for the site searching for public records of Kekua's school enrollment and death found nothing, Scocca said.
“His grandmother has a death record, his girlfriend doesn’t,” he said.
Te’o has claimed that he was the victim of an elaborate hoax, but many question whether the player really was duped.
“Very few victims profit as much from being victimized as he did up till now,” Scocca said.
“I just don’t see the motive. Common sense says he had to have something to do with it, but why? I keep asking myself why would he go this far to do it,” Morning Joe’s Willie Geist asked.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the hoax is how many national media outlets were fooled.
"We get this tip and it's absurd. How is this story that everyone knows not be true? the first thing you do is you start going back to the coverage and you look at for instance the Sports Illustrated and you're looking for what you have to disprove, what do they have about this girl that we're going to have to actually demonstrate isn't true," Scocca said. But when they got to the stories, they realized "there's nothing."