Notre Dame hoax tip was emailed: Deadspin.com editor

Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:02pm EST
 
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By James B. Kelleher

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The tip that led to the revelation that one of the most widely recounted U.S. sports narratives of the past year was a hoax came to the editors of an online sports blog as many of their news tips do: an unsolicited email.

That email led Deadspin.com assignment editor Timothy Burke on the hunt of a story that exposed the heart-wrenching tale of standout Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend as a fabrication, Burke said on CNN on Thursday.

Te'o sprang to national prominence last fall when the senior co-captain was seen heroically leading the Fighting Irish to an underdog victory against the Michigan State Spartans within days of learning his grandmother had died. Moreover, it was widely reported, Te'o's girlfriend had died of leukemia just hours after his grandmother's death.

From that point, Te'o's narrative was a prominent feature in coverage of the team, which has a dedicated following and whose games are televised nationally each week.

Notre Dame went on to an undefeated regular season, culminating in a berth in the national championship game, which the Fighting Irish lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 7.

"We got an email last week at Deadspin.com that said 'Hey, there's something real weird about Lennay Kekua, Manti Te'o's allegedly dead girlfriend. You guys should check it out,'" Burke said.

The email prompted Burke and co-author Jack Dickey to begin searching online for background on Kekua. "So we start Googling the name Lennay Kekua. We can't find any evidence of this person that wasn't attached to stories about her being Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend."

Their investigation led about a week later to a 4,000-word expose, published Wednesday under the headline "Blarney," that painstakingly debunked the story of Kekua's existence. The story went viral online.   Continued...

 
Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o speaks during media day for the 2013 BCS National Championship NCAA football game in Miami, Florida in this January 5, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/Files