Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o takes composite girlfriend concept to new level with tragic lost love who didn’t exist; University (today) says he was duped; Te’o calls it ‘sick joke’

Well, yes, that’s pretty much it. has the (much longer but fascinating) account, but in short, University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, didn’t die tragically at 22 because she was never born in the first place. As writers Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey report:

Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.

The photographs identified as Kekua — in online tributes and on TV news reports — are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te’o.

That so many people were touched by the inspirational story of triumph over tragic loss makes the revelation of the hoax even that much more shocking. Te’o did indeed lose his grandmother last September, but the death of his beloved “Lennay Kekua” of cancer months after a serious car accident was so sad it was reported by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other media outlets, accompanied by a photo snagged from a stranger’s Facebook account.

It is real life. Once the shock wore off, though, the idea of someone creating a pretend girlfriend on the Internet didn’t seem all that far-fetched. Pathetic, but plausible.

It almost sounds like an “X Files” episode, and some wonder if the tragic story of Lennay Kekua had such legs because people wanted to believe.

Notre Dame’s spokesperson is having a busy day, too. The school’s Dennis Brown issued a statement on Facebook claiming that Te’o himself was the victim of a hoax.

On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.

Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel is asking the questions that have everyone scratching their heads.

Um, what?

* * *

Update: The plot thickens — how could it not? Deadspin posted its story just over an hour ago. Notre Dame responded that coaches were approached about the hoax Dec. 26. But was someone on to the story as early as Dec. 3?

That’s certainly suspicious. Two tweets from a user named “catfishhhhhhhh”?

You remember that movie, Erick. Universal Pictures said it was “a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.”

* * *


Te’o has issued a statement, calling himself the victim of a sick joke.

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.

* * *


Who knew that Lennay Kekua didn’t exist, and when did they know it? The Big Lead is reporting that ESPN has been sitting on the story for 10 days.

Hmm. Back in September, just days after Kekua’s “death,” Te’o asked her (via tweet) to say hello to other loved ones in the afterlife.

  • Josephine (D)

    This is sickening IMO.

  • grais

    Maybe I’m stupid; maybe I’m just tired, but I don’t understand this story even one little bit.

    : )

    • TugboatPhil

      I missed it too. But if it makes sports reporters look stupid, it’s a good thing.

      • grais

        This is as intriguing as Anderson Cooper’s story about the woman trying to mail the banana peel.
        Well, at least some of the tweets are funny, particularly Brian Essbe’s.

  • rinodino

    The real question is why would he fake it? I’m sure he could have is pick of the liter…. The night is young, so we have time…

    • radjahshelduck

      Ha! Dave, you wrote “pick of the LITER”!!! Hey, after they’ve had a few liters, any guy has his pick of the ladies.

    • Agent_Zeero

      Well, he was attending Notre Dame. How good could the choices possibly be?

  • Alex

    That’s why internet dating is retarded.

    • BeyondPolls

      He used to say they met at Stanford…

  • Harrison Woodard

    I remember reading the story in SI back in September. The lost love inspiring his play was repeated ad nauseam all season and garnered much sympathy for the player leading up to the award votes and ceremonies. You are wanting us to believe now (Notre Dame, Te’o and media) that nobody checked the veracity of this story? The victim of a hoax story sounds less plausible than the dead girlfriend he never met story.

  • radjahshelduck

    Maybe she was the person Clint Eastwood was talking to in the empty chair instead of invisible Obama.

  • Dave

    Pretty sure that Notre Dame made up that whole stupid Rudy story, too.

    Win one for the “fibber,” and what not.

  • BeyondPolls

    The media has proven once again their disdain for factual information and their love for a sensational storyline.

    • Zane Henry

      If it bleeds, or fictionally dies of cancer, it leads!

      Bravo, delusional football player and squishy media with no ability, or desire, to vet ANYTHING anymore.

      • BeyondPolls


    • CR

      I’m just surprised they didn’t say Mitt Romney killed her like he “killed” that other man’s wife who died of cancer because of Mitt’s evil evilness.

      • BeyondPolls


  • lillymckim

    Maybe Obama can introduce him to Julia.

  • BeyondPolls

    BTW, I don’t think he’s innocent.

  • Neil Leininger

    Anthony Weiner thinks Te’o’s story is a little hard to believe.

  • chris hasty

    this guy was in on it from the start. what a sick sad individual. how do you not go to her funeral? how does the dad tell people that they were spending time together in hawaii? this is a haox on the american people by a sick sad individual.

  • overboosted

    Obama made up a “composite girlfriend” in one of his books. (funny how there are no real ex-girlfriends…..)

    Pathological liars………


  • GaryTheBrave

    There’s a country song in this story.

    • Michelle

      You Picked a Fine Time to Leave me Lennaaaaaaaay.

  • Midnight Cow

    My guess: if you’re a Mormon and a big-time football player, and you’re gay, but it’s not okay to be a gay Mormon football player, make up a long-distance girlfriend. When lying for a year becomes burdensome, kill off the made-up girlfriend. Because you’ve told Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and everyone else all about her, hope that no one finds out you were lying. When everyone finds out you were lying, tell your new story about being the victim of a hoax, and then hope that no one thinks too hard about it and realizes that can’t possibly be true. Eventually admit that the new story is also a lie, move to Canada, start your CFL career.

    • ClinkinKY

      I was going to ask why no one thought it weird that a high profile college football player couldn’t find a real girlfriend. You pretty much covered it:)

  • DavidKramer

    You guys are just jealous, I currently have a great relationship with this woman called Metaphorical Simile. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • disqus_qG4wzO74LR

    I smell one rancid Heisman campaign being pushed by Notre Dame. Silly me. I thought only American Idol did that ‘dead girlfriend’ stuff. Does this mean Ryan Seacrest will announce the winner next year?

  • GTFOBigGovt

    Twitchy is so mean. Everybody knows he’s the son of a humble goatfarmer/Harvard grad who innocently met his mother in Russian language class in 1960. Because they were going to do Christian missionary work in Russia, of course.

    Then he went to Indonesia with his mother instead because it was such a Christian bastion. His father didn’t go because he had to get to steppin accumulating more plig wives, according to the Christian tenants. But it was ok because he lucked out getting his “new” coincidence father, Frank who taught him the ways of America The Beautiful, land of the free blah blah blah. According to Uncle Saul, who by another divine interventional coincidence Hillary Rodham worshiped. Her husband Bill is so jealous! He called his inspirational life “the biggest fairy tale”. HDU!

    You know when his mother was dying he watched her BATTLE the insurance companies who refused to pay ANYTHING! This has inspired him to fundamentally change the world!

    Manti Te’o 2016!!

  • Liberals Needhelp

    1st, really, really, really stupid Manti…….for a well educated guy (and Notre Dame does expect players to actually attend class & get a real grade)….you had to know better.

    2nd, if true – a hoax he uncovered after he blabbed about a girlfriend….& it ended on yet more fake news….sad, & humiliating. But, in this internet age, there are a lot of people who stupidly have ‘relationships’ online only……or for long periods of time before they meet. It’s not unheard of. I’m stretching it Manti, to try to give you some benefit of a doubt.

    3rd, if he had any part in it, incredibly stupid, wrong, & childish – it’s a sign of immaturity & ignorance & arrogance. What was the point? Sympathy for a Heisman? He had no idea ND would actually have a great season…..not in Sept. or Oct. anyway.

    4th, it should have little real impact on his draft #. The NFL has highly drafted players with known drug problems (Ricky Williams & others), assault charges (USC players), taking bribes, NCAA violations, academic problems, assault on women problems (Nebraska player Lawrence Phillips), Reggie Bush under the spotlight of agent money issues, illegal car, illegal house for parents, etc., players w/ issues w/ drugs & booze, & gambling, etc. Manti showed a problem w/ honesty, maturity, & an ability to try to fool a program & trusted authority figures. But, he can play football, he is young, & let’s see what he does now.
    5th, we have a president who created fake girlfriends in his autobiographies…and only admitted they were ‘composite’ girlfriends when someone dug a little deeper….same thing? We still don’t know if any of them are real, no one has checked. We’re too busy checking on a ND player to do that for the President.
    I say let’s have Manti and Obama meet and present the true and fake girlfriend facts to the nation in a press conference -surrounded by little kids of course.