The Te’o Hoax: A Timeline, What We Know, What We Don’t Know

The past few days have been an absolute whirlwind. With all the reports of the Te’o hoax, including Te’o speaking himself, I felt it was needed to create a clear timeline of all events reported. I also wanted to take a step back and summarize what we do and don’t know at this point in time.

So without further ado, below is a timeline of all the events that I have been able to record (and most importantly, source) in order to help keep everything straight. Each event has a link associated with it so everyone can confirm the dates and my reasoning why I approximated certain dates/times like I did (as exact dates were not given for all events).

I will continue to update this timeline with any updates as they come my way. Feel free to fire away in the comments if I missed something (and please source via a link).

Manti Te’o Hoax: Timeline

Manti Te’o Hoax: What We Know

Manti Te’o Lied

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Manti lied. He said so himself.

This likely can account for some of the discrepancies in some dates (e.g. when he started to date Lennay) as well as some of the details of the relationship. Considering he lied to his father, Brian Te’o, this might also account for why the South Bend Tribune article contains so many details that just didn’t happen. Even Eric Hansen, who wrote that piece, seemed beyond confused about this while asking questions during Swarbrick’s presser.

The bottom line though is that Manti made things a lot harder for himself by embellishing any details about his relationship with Lennay. There likely wouldn’t be nearly as much backlash and doubt on him if he had been truthful the whole time.

Manti Te’o Fell Victim to This Hoax

Despite the lies, Te’o is still a victim in the hoax. I’ve caught some flack on Twitter about this stance, but I think some people misunderstand what is means to be victimized in this case.

Let’s say I get one of those Nigerian scam emails or something like it and fall for it. I hand over money and rationalize it to my family and friends that I’ve met this person before and felt they were honest when they spoke to me. Later I realize I’m duped and cry foul play. Despite my obvious lie, I still got scammed. Just because I used poor judgement in talking to others and lying about the situation doesn’t change that fact.

With all the evidence now in front of us, Manti definitely believed Lennay was real (even up to the point until Ronaiah confessed to him just a few days ago!). He feel for the hoax. He might not have helped himself out when he lied to his dad, but the fact remains that he got suckered.

The Notre Dame Investigation Leaves a Lot to Be Desired

Perhaps one of the more shocking developments has been how the South Bend Tribune described this investigation:

The investigation ordered by Notre Dame was limited to the electronic search, Brown said. Investigators did not interview Te’o or his family, nor did anyone attempt to contact Ronaiah Tuiasosopo or any of his relatives.

In response to questions, university officials said the investigators did not examine cell phone records, e-mails or other electronic communication to determine the length or extent of Te’o’s communication over the past few years with the person claiming to be Lennay Kekua, nor did the university ask Te’o to take a lie detector test.

I assume that the University wished to protect Te’o’s privacy and just find any other evidence related to this hoax. This seems a bit odd to me, but I’m not even going to try and hypothesize on what Notre Dame decided in regards to any privacy issues.

The bottom line here is that Notre Dame was given enough information via Twitter alone that this was a hoax. I definitely wish phone records at the very least would be released, but it is what it is.

Notre Dame Knew About the Hoax When They Said They Did

Thus far, there has been no evidence to suggest that Notre Dame and its athletic department knew about the hoax any earlier than December 26, 2012.

There have also been many allegations and assumptions that Notre Dame somehow knew about the hoax and used it to help promote Manti. This of course, is traced back to the Michigan State and later the Michigan game. However, there is no proof of this. Again from the SBT:

Brown said university leaders have never had any reason to doubt Te’o or his word, and never had concerns that the extent of Te’o’s relationship with the dead “girlfriend” was overstated last fall.

The wearing of leis and chants of “Man-ti Te’o!” by fans during games was a grassroots phenomenon, Brown said. “It was not orchestrated by the university in any way,” he said. “We’ve looked back as an institution to ask, did we push that story as a tragedy? We don’t think we did,” he said.

And, on our end, I can confirm this when HLS decided to become involved with the “Leis For Manti” movement. I had members of TNNDN reach out to me back in September via Twitter and I decided to move forward based on those tweets. No one from any official Notre Dame channels ever contacted myself or HLS about promoting this movement.

The fans drove it and helped make it a success along with members of Student Organizations like the Leprechaun Legion whom operate outside the chain of command within the Athletic Department. Manti’s performance that night against Michigan and the success of the campaign helped to add even more visibility to the story.

If Notre Dame knew about this, evidence would have already come to light. Anything suggesting anything of the sort has been conjecture and opinion.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo Is the Ringleader of the Hoax

Deadspin, any source that’s come to ESPN, Manti Te’o, and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo himself have confirmed this. There are other people involved, but Ronaiah remains at the center of it all.

Manti Te’o Hoax: What We Don’t Know

The Other People Involved with the Hoax

There are at least two others (one male, one female), but their identities haven’t been released as of yet. At this point, we likely won’t ever know until Ronaiah details his hoax.

Who Played Lennay on the Phone

Manti Te’o, Brian Te’o, and even Carlo Calabrese’s mom have all talked to someone claiming to be Lennay on the phone. But the identity of this person? Completely unknown.

How Brian Te’o Came Up with All the Details in the South Bend Tribune Story in October

Yes, we know Te’o lied to his father, but only about meeting her while in Hawaii. Where did the rest of the story come from? There’s details of a meeting during a 2009 Stanford game (which we now know as the wrong Stanford game (misunderstanding or another falsehood?) and Brain said there were multiple meetings with Lennay and his son.

Perhaps Manti failed to detail all the lies he told to his father or Brian further embellished the stories when the SBT called. Either way the only things we know for sure about this story is that the details came from Brian (Eric Hansen said this during a question at Swarbrick’s presser) and the erroneous facts presented in that article still need explanation.


[Update: 1/20 10:00pm ET] Move this into the “What We Know” column. Brian Te’o has cleared up his quotes with Hansen:

Brian Te’o was contrite about the misunderstanding, Hiltzik said.

“The statement included the qualification ‘as I understand it’ because it was based on information from a source later revealed to be Lennay’s (fake) brother.” “It’s sad,” Hiltzik added, “that well-regarded journalists like Eric, who are just trying to do their jobs, have joined the list of victims of this complex web of deceit.”

“I appreciate Brian Te’o setting the record straight,” Hansen said.

Who in the World Gave Deadspin Their “80%” Quote and What It Was Based On

Honestly, I don’t want to try to rake Deadspin through the mud. I’m not that petty. They broke the story and they got it largely right.

However, what they got dead wrong was the quote about a source being “80% sure” that Manti was in on this. I only harp on this because not only was Deadspin’s story the first narrative out, but that 80% quote has stuck for a lot of people.

I’m curious as to who feed them that line and what they based it on. Perhaps the source was referring to Manti’s lies to his father and the details about his relationship. Maybe the source simply got it wrong or based it on information they didn’t know it was false. Or, quite possibly, the source was full of shit and pulled the wool over Deadspin’s eyes.

Either way, of all things listed here, this is one thing I don’t ever expect to find out.

[Update: 1/20 10:12pm ET] Totally missed this in the media whirlwind, but J.R. Vaosa was one of the Deadspin sources and they confirmed it:

Another one of Smith’s sources, a man named J.R. Vaosa, spoke to us for our original story, saying Tuiasosopo had confessed to his best friend. He tried to put us in touch with her, to no avail. Vaosa was one of our two unnamed sources who believed that Tuiasosopo had been in league with Te’o in the deception.

Te’o’s role in the hoax remains the biggest unanswered question. Notre Dame’s investigators said they were certain that Te’o had no knowledge of the hoax before he received a phone call from the number he’d known as Lennay’s on Dec. 6. (Regarding the confession’s timing: Tweets accusing Ronaiah of masterminding the whole thing surfaced on Dec. 4.) But Vaoso, whose cousin had been duped by Lennay/Tuiasosopo in for a month in 2008, said he was “80 percent” certain that Te’o had known of the hoax at some point before Lennay’s “death.”

I’d still like to know what Vaosa based his initial quote on. Especially since they told ESPN the following:

“When I found out about the Samoan football player (and) his girlfriend, his Grandma died the same day, I was like, ‘Whoa this is crazy,’ I feel so bad for him, so I just looked him up,” Vaosa said. “I found out his girlfriend’s name was Lennay Kekua. And right when I read the name Lennay Kekua, I immediately thought of Ronaiah. Then I thought of my cousin — that this has to be the same person.”

The cousins said they were convinced Te’o was being victimized, but they were uncertain of what to do. They said they began tweeting their suspicions. Many of their tweets were laced with sarcasm including claims that they were the real Lennay Kekua. After broke the story on Te’o and Swarbrick held a news conference, Vaosa and Tuioti-Mariner found reporters at their door and said threats were made to them and their families on Twitter.


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  • rbn

    Thank you for the excellent article.

    One nit: under “Ronaiah Tuiasosopo Is the Ringleader of the Hoax” you say “…There are other players involved, but …”. It might be clearer to say “…There are other ACTORS/PERPETRATORS involved, but…”. “Players” might be confused to suggest other members of the ND football team.

    • NDtex

      Very fair nit. I agree, no need to create additional confusion in any way. I will edit.

      Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Kevin

    Fantastic work on this Tex. Carrie Mathison quality timeline here.

  • stogiesnbeer

    Thanks for this Tex, I’ve been largely silent on this stuff, mainly because I’ve been out of work and haven’t been hearing trash talk from my friends, but also because this whole thing is so weird that drawing any conclusions sooner would be basically using a “Jump to Conclusions” mat.
    I really, really don’t think Manti had anything to do with the hoax at all. He lied to his dad saying that he (in person) met Lennay, and the story spiraled from there. I feel like he felt uncomfortable calling her his “girlfriend” from when the story broke of her “death”, I remember there were multiple points of confusion (saying “either a close female friend or girlfriend) during the MSU game. I think the media called her a “girlfriend” and Manti just wasn’t comfortable correcting them. At what point is he supposed to say, “Uh, look guys, I don’t want to pick nits here, but she wasn’t exactly my “girlfriend” per se.”
    Nothing against Bayou, but this doesn’t affect my perception of Manti, he was a victim in all this, is he guilty of lying to his pops and not correcting the media? Sure. Does that fundamentally change who he is? Nah man. Who isn’t guilty of lying to their parents? And Manti doesn’t seem that comfortable talking one-on-one to reporters anyway, so I feel like that would make him less comfortable correcting their “girlfriend” angle.

  • stogiesnbeer

    What is the deal with everyone piling on ND’s investigation? They found enough to satisfy themselves that Manti wasn’t in on the hoax. They satisfied their own personal burden of proof, there was no reason for ND to go further into this crazy freaking rabbit hole, once they were convinced that Manti was the victim. Just curious.

    • NDtex

      It’s more of a perception problem than anything else.

      There are people who wonder if Manti was even on the phone with anyone late at night. Phone records would be quick to prove that.

      As I said in the article, I understand they are likely protecting Te’o’s privacy, but the way the story initially broke, leaving such details out hasn’t helped too much. Adds fuel to conspiracy theories when it doesn’t need to.

      • stogiesnbeer

        Fair enough, that makes sense. Thanks.

  • Terry

    What do we all know? We were ALL snookered.

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