Sports Illustrated Is Tyring to Figure Out How They Were Duped by this Manti Te’o Girlfriend Hoax
Since the story about the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax broke late Wednesday afternoon, so many questions have been asked that, unfortunately, curious minds have no way of answering. However, there is one question that we can begin to answer, and that is, how in the hell did all the media sources not notice that this person they were reporting on didn’t exist?
We can begin to answer this question because one of these media sources, Sports Illustrated, has begun examining itself.
Back in September, SI’s Pete Thamel did a cover story for the magazine about the terrible tragedies Manti Te’o had been playing through—the (real) death of his grandmother, and the (fake) death of his (fake) girlfriend. And today he’s released a story looking back on the latter in a report on his own reporting, if you will.
So what does Thamel think now, looking back? Well, on the one hand, he says that Te’o and his friends and family spoke about Lanny Kukua in such detail, and that there weren’t really any inconsistencies with what they were saying. Moreover, Manti spoke of Lannay with such conviction and emotion—his eyes welling up at times—that he had no doubt that the guy was heartbroken.
However, Thamel admits that he did overlook a few red flags.
First, he tried to find Lannay Kukua’s obituary but could not. Unfortunte, but not bizarre. Maybe her family didn’t publish an obituary for her.
Then, Thamel tried to check what year she graduated from Stanford, calling a guy named Mike Eubanks, the assistant athletic director for football. Eubanks couldn’t find a record for her there and, more importantly, remarked that it was strange that a student at Stanford had dated Manti Te’o and he hadn’t heard of it, because apparently that’s the kind of thing that gets around.
Finally, Thamel searched for details about the car crash Lannay was supposedly in, the one where she was hit by a drunk driver. But they couldn’t find that, either.
So in the end, Thamel admits that he didn’t pay much attention to these red flags. But can you blame him? If a guy talks to you about his dead girlfriend with tears in his eyes, you tend not to question it. Besides, who would make that up?
Anyway, if you want to read the whole article, which includes word-for-word transcripts of Thamel’s interview with Manti Te’o and other people at Notre Dame, you can do that here. It doesn’t really solve this riddle, but it does shed a bit more light on it.