Was Notre Dame football star Manti Te’0 a “victim of a cruel internet prank” or did he deliberately peddle to the lazy media a phony story about the death of an imaginary girlfriend? UK Daily Mail.
Paul Farhi Wash Post: “Although it’s still not clear who created and perpetrated the apparent deception, the media took Te’o’s word for it without inquiring further. ”
Farhi quotes press think tanker Tom Rosenstiel: “The lesson here is ‘look inside the freezer.’ Journalists shouldn’t be taking [a source’s] word if there is some way to verify it for themselves.”
Sports Illustrated’s senior writer Michael Rosenberg: Who got duped? Well, most of media, for one. This includes Sports Illustrated – we put Te’o on our cover in October, and the story includes Te’o talking about his girlfriend dying. I didn’t write the story, but I’m going to be honest here and say I could have written the story.
Other media outlets had already written about Te’o's girlfriend dying, and Te’o talked about it … I mean, we’re all supposed to have b.s. detectors in this business, but mine would not have gone off there. Evidently, I’m not alone, because dozens of media outlets mentioned the girlfriend without wondering if she existed. In that situation, a reporter tries to talk to her family, other people who knew her — you fill in the edges of the story. But if you don’t get a hold of those people, would you really think “Hey, this is probably just a hoax, and this girlfriend doesn’t exist”? Be honest.
Rosenberg on Te’o’s evasive answer at a Jan. 3 press conference: “Technically, Te’o did not lie. But he did tell a lie of omission — somebody asked him about his dead girlfriend, and he declined to tell the truth: That she did not exist. This was a pattern for Te’o. Everybody assumed he met her in person, and he certainly indicated that he did. … By that standard, most men in this country have spent time alone with Kate Upton. … I think he did what a lot of young men do: He lied a little bit about his woman. … [H]e let people believe he’d met her in person, when in fact, he had just met her online. He didn’t realize his lies would get caught in a web of much bigger lies.”
The Associated Press fingered Te’o talking about the dead girlfriend to the media AFTER he supposedly discovered the hoax in early December. The imaginary lover is identified as 23-year-old Diane O’Meara. NYP.
Related: Duo joked about hoax on Twitter over a month ago. BuzzFeed.
Will this hurt Teo‘s chances in this spring’s NFL draft? The phony sob story came out last fall. Can you say Heisman? Teo was a runner-up.
Decades ago another Notre Dame football star, quarterback Joe Theismann, changed the pronunciation of his name from Theesman to Thighsman to rhyme with Heisman.
NYT: Was Te’o a sympathetic victim of a cruel fraud, or a calculating participant in a phony story that had been milked to aid his bid for the Heisman Trophy?