It was a heart-wrenching story. In a 72-hour time frame, Notre Dame’s star linebacker Manti Te’o lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.
And it was a lie. While his grandmother did pass away in September, his girlfriend did not. In fact, she never existed, Deadspin reports.
Notre Dame is holding a press conference right now on ESPN News (scheduled to begin at 8).
Here it is, in real time.
(refresh page for updates)
Update: A video of the beginning:
8:05 – Still no word from Notre Dame. ESPN just filling time.
8:07 – Jack Swarbrick: Good evening. Thanks for joining us on short notice.
We’re here because of an article that appeared on Deadspin.
Much of what drove [our] decisions relates in part to a fundamental view on student privacy.
8:08 – This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax. Perpetrated for reasons we can’t fully understand but had a certain cruelty at its core based on the exchanges that we were able to see between the people who perpetrated it.
Manti was the victim of that hoax. Manti is the victim of that hoax.
In many ways Manti was the perfect mark.
As the hoax played out…it roped him more and more into the trap. He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his help and engaging fully.
8:10 – I want to stress that nothing about what I’ve learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te’o one iota. Same great man, student and athlete that we have been so proud to have as a member of our family.
8:11 – On morning of Dec 26, Manti came to his coaches and said he answered a phone call with a person who told him that she was not dead. Manti was very unnerved by that as you can imagine.
He promptly reached out to me to inform me. I met with Manti for an hour and forty-five minutes and asked him to recall every detail of the relationship with this woman as he knew it.
I met with him the next day to review what we had gone over. Again he was a full and excellent partner in making sure the information I collected was accurate.
8:12 – Notre Dame hired an investigative firm about the “hoax.” We received a final report from them on January 4. I met with Brian and wife on the fifth to share with them the essence of those findings. We left that meeting with an understanding that they would think about what they had heard.
8:14 – First question from press: “Anyone else investigating this?”
8:15 – Next question: “What have you seen that proves Manti wasn’t behind the hoax?”
Jack: Several things. Catfish on MTV (it was covered by Dr. Phil recently). It is a scam. It follows the exact situation of this. It involves a relationship, some sort of accident, and then a death. Secondly, the internal consistencies as we probed and asked questions. The facts as we understood them. We’re very comfortable with the consistency. Thirdly, our investigators were able to discover online chatter about the perpetrators.
This was an online relationship only
8:19 – “Did anyone try to reach out to girlfriend/family?”
Jack: School did not. Manti did. Not sure about players on the team.
8:20 – Press: “When did they meet?”
Jack: I don’t remember the exact length of time. It involved an online reaching out that he responded to.
Press guy named Eric: “The reason I ask is Brian Te’o had mentioned an in person meeting to me dating back to 2009. Does your timeline go back that far and how do you explain the differences in that story?”
Jack: Eric, I think the timeline does line up. I don’t have my notes in front of me but I think that’s right. I will forecast it only in two ways. One is, when I talked to Manti on the 27th about it and I asked him to take me into the beginning he said, “We met on….” and I said, “What do you mean, ‘you met.'” He was saying it was an online meeting when he said “met.”
As part of the hoax, several meetings were set up and Lennay never showed.
There are a remarkable number of characters involved…cousins, mother… We don’t know if it’s two characters playing multiple people.
Everything about this until that last week in December was real to Manti. Grief was real, the affection was real, and that’s the nature of this sad, real game.
8:23 – Another press question: “Any discussion internally at Notre Dame to break the story first?”
Jack: No, and I’m glad you asked that. We’re in a unique business here. Was there someone trying to impact the outcome of football games by manipulating the emotions of a key player? Were there extortion requests coming? When you lack the details we still lack with the risk involved in some of these possible scenarios, it was clear to me that, until we knew more, we had to work more to gather the facts. This is not different for us — and it played out in a very public way — than the situations that involve our students in a host of queries. We decided this was Manti’s story to tell. We didn’t know when it would be told, just that it was his to tell.
8:25 – Broadcast cuts out.
8:36 – We’re back! Jack is still answering questions.
Jack: No criminal charges yet.
Press question: “Have you been able to comprehend this?”
Jack: For people my age, this is unfathomable. This sort of online virtual nature of this is hard for us. Hard for me to get my arms around. We know, for example, these perpetrators didn’t limit themselves to Manti as the target. You just don’t know who you’re dealing with.
Press: “You talk about this being an online relationship, but Manti says he’s talked to her.”
Jack: Yah, thanks for correcting that. Online and telephonic. Lengthy, long telephone conversations. All of those things. The issue of who it is, who’s playing what role is a more complex question than I can get into.
8:39 – Press: “You mentioned Manti wasn’t the only one he targeted. Anyone else at Notre Dame?”
Jack: I’m not aware of anyone else at Notre Dame.
Press: “The day of BCS championship when you knew about this, a story about their relationship aired. Did you do anything to try and stop it?”
Jack: Where did it air? No I didn’t know about it.
The one thing we were certain of was this was coming out. There was not an intention or belief that this was a story that wouldn’t get told. We had hoped the first person would be Manti, and the intention was that would be next week. And he didn’t get that opportunity before someone else told it.
Manti went home for Christmas break and he wanted to talk to his parents…that’s the son he is. He wanted to consult with them and get their advice. It was on the basis of that conversation that he called us.
8:40 – Press: “Did Manti receive any other communication?”
Jack: Yes, they continued to be persistent…we don’t know when communication stopped. It dissipated with time. He stopped responding.
Press: “Will Notre Dame release any findings?”
Jack: No. Notre Dame does not intend to release any findings from the investigation.
Press: “Was there any other motive that comes to light besides the sport?”
Jack: Cruelty. Shockingly casual conversations about what they were doing and how they were doing it.
Press: “Did you speak to the team about what they recalled? Or just Manti.”
Jack: Just Manti.
8:44 – Press: “Did anyone else know on the team?”
Stutters. Uh..two coaches knew. I knew. Manti had taken a couple of teammates into his confidence. Defensive coordinator and head coach knew.
8:45 – “Will we ever hear from the girl who provided the voice?”
Jack: I don’t know…she shared the information with the Te’os. We’re letting them take next steps.
8:46 – If you’ve never met her in person it seems deceiving to speak so publicly about her.
Jack: Then you don’t know Manti, is my answer. They understood the extraordinary nature of this man. The more trouble she was in, the more engaged he became. And the more focused he’d become. For those who are suspicious that that can happen in a virtual environment, I think there are a lot of documentaries out there that suggest otherwise. The cautionary tail it affords to those same young people. The people who will be less skeptical of this…skepticism increases with age, don’t understand how social media can be used to that effect.
Press: “How did you advise Manti to handle questions?”
Jack: We encouraged him to focus on the game. It was that simple, it wasn’t very complex. We understood the challenge of that.
Press: “Do you think this affected his play that night?”
Jack: No, I don’t want to say that . But it has impacted Manti as a person, significantly. There’s a lot of tragedy here. There’s a lot of sorrow. But the thing I’m most sad about is. Sorry (crying). He’ll never be able to trust again in his life. That’s a tragedy.
ABC Chicago press: “Did Notre Dame alert the feds?”
No. We did not refer this to criminal authority. We shared all of our information with the Te’os.
ABC Chicago press: “Well at the very least the fact that someone was harassing a star player, why didn’t Notre Dame contact law enforcement?”
Jack: Well because we believed that was the victim’s decision to make. And he and his family in consultation with whoever they choose to consult with. We were not the victim. We’ve been impacted, but I don’t want to confuse this at all. Manti Te’o was thevictim of this scam.
ABC Chicago press: “Was there a discussion about involving law enforcement?”
Jack: Yes, there was a discussion about everything.
ABC Chicago press: “Do you still think that was the right decision?”
Jack: I do.
8:52 – Press: “There have been reports that Manti had a face to face meeting with his girlfriend at Stanford. What’s up with that?”
Jack: I’ll let Manti speak to that. When Manti took me through the story from start to finish, he used the term “met.” The fact that they met online. The timing was consistent with the playing of that game.
Press: “Given that Manti said he thought his girlfriend had died, and then someone called and said it was her, why wasn’t he more confused?”
Jack: There was a lot of confusion. You know, we asked the questions of people involved in the consideration of the next steps, was there criminal activity here? It was hard to identify beyond a cruel, cruel hoax.
8:53 – Press conference ends.