Te’o, Teaaa-O – Daylight Come and Me Want To Go Home

By: Jeff Spector
January 25, 2013

So like millions of others, I watched Manti Te’o on the Katie Couric Show yesterday. And, I suppose, like millions of others, I came away with mixed feelings.

I thought he came across as a very nice, polite, soft-spoken guy. He seemed quite sincere. I can’t quite assess truthfulness because it is clear he did not always tell the truth—to his family or the media.  So you are led to wonder, what is the real truth?

To me, this much is clear.  The hoax played on Te’o was elaborate, well thought-out, wide-spread, and deliberate. If Ronaiah Tuiasosopo masterminded this hoax, he had help from others, both as co-conspirators and some innocently.  According to other news reports, Tuiasosopo had pulled this “catfishing” stunt before on others in 2008.

Not only were their pictures, tweets, phone calls, etc, but there were Facetime video calls.  Trouble was, Manti could never see Lennay’s video feed. It was a blank screen. The person on the other end would say,” I can see you and I can see me, I don’t know why you can’t see me.”

But, even as Manti is telling the story on national TV, there were, a number of huge red flags, a huge number which Manti chose to ignore.  Either, because he just wanted to believe so badly that the person was real and in love with him, or because he is not too bright.  According to him, even some of his friends told him it was OK, she was real.

When Katie asked him whether he thought something wasn’t right, he basically said that he thought it was strange but then ignored the warning sign.  And this happened multiple times while the imaginary person went from tragedy to tragedy.

One the other hand, we all know of situations where real live people ignore clear warning signs in their relationships, some which end badly.

So, it appears that we have one, well-executed hoax, one rather naïve love-struck guy who was in the national spotlight and appear to enjoy the attention the story brought him, parents who were lied to that also liked to tell the story, and a tons of unanswered questions that might never get answered properly.

The one thing that really struck me in the interview was this point.  Katie asked him why when he was a football star at a major university, full of nice girls; he didn’t want a girlfriend at school. His answer was interesting.  He said, “She was Polynesian and Samoan like me, she knew a lot about my faith, my values, she was like me.”

Well, guess what Manti, you went to a Midwest, largely white Irish-Catholic University. There are probably not a lot of Polynesian-Samoan Mormon girls there, even at Church and Institute. If that was so important to you, Hawaii, Utah and BYU are full of those girls.  You could have been a football star anywhere you went.  Of course, you probably have more potential to earn the big bucks coming from Norte Dame than even BYU, so is that what it is all about?

So, I really felt bad for him and his parents after the show, even though they all played right into the hands of the hoaxers.

Could it be the same simple Mormon naiveté that gets members in trouble in financial schemes and other dubious activity because we are so trusting?

13 Responses to Te’o, Teaaa-O – Daylight Come and Me Want To Go Home

  1. alice on January 25, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Personally, I don’t know why this is a story.

    If he was naive, he was naive about a personal matter. If he was dishonest, he was dishonest about a petty matter. None of it really touches anyone’s life in any material way.

    If he were not an athlete no one would care and I think athletics has become a corrupt endeavor full of the distortion of big money and inflated egos. The unnatural fixation on college and professional sports debases our culture and deprives legitimate educational pursuits of the resources that colleges and universities should be directing to them and genuine scholarship.

    The church is no more immune to this corruption than any of the other schools with ambitious sports programs. And it’s just as full of voyeurs as the society at large.

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  2. Glenn on January 25, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Interesting quote about “her” knowledge about his faith being a factor. Infants on Thrones did an episode about this — the possible influences of Mormon culture on Manti’s willingness to create a deeply meaningful relationship on faith (things hoped for not seen, much?). Not sure if we hit the mark or not, but we had a lot of fun discussing it!


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  3. Rigel Hawthorne on January 25, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    I don’t think you can really blame the guy for choosing Notre Dame over areas where he would have been more comfortable. We see the same thing on a smaller scale repeatedly where students pass on the community colleges near their homes to go to the state Universities that are bigger and more exciting. Of course when they get there, they tend to try to find people similar to them and may get homesick and look for encouragement from friends they left behind.

    As to the question put to him about not picking a girlfriend from Notre Dame, it’s not unlike other single LDS men who find themselves in academic programs or internships who are surrounded by non-LDS peers that, while they are good friends, do not share the same ideas about waiting for the relationship that is going to be eternal. That is not an eaxy concept to explain in a media interview. If you get really, really busy doing the thing you are there to do, it can be easier to put some things on hold. I remember hearing well as a medical student the gossip of male residents about something being wrong with one of the residents who was LDS because he was a ’30 year old virgin’. I heard others gossip, when Steve Young was an eligible waiting bachelor, that he was waiting for the ‘right Mormon man’. So with this drama we hear theories about the hoax being created to cover a different sexuality. Nothing new here, just people trying to place a label on something, right or wrong.

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  4. Geoff - A on January 25, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Being in Australia I have heard nothing about this, however, we have had a story on the national news for most of a week which also involves LDS Tongans.

    The tongan family have been at war with an aboriginal family and there have been riots in the stree because each side called for reinforcement from their cultural groups.

    In the same area we had a few years ago a Tongan gang, including LDS youth kill an aboriginal youth.

    There was no mention of the fact that the Tongan family were LDS.

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  5. Jettboy on January 26, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    Geoff, that sounds right out of the Book of Mormon, and I also hope there was Church actions against those involved. They weren’t (if they ever really were) LDS the moment they committed those acts. They should be put to death as murderers legally.

    As to this story, so what? I agree with Alce and would only be repeating the first comment. Even if I don’t care this happened, I am fascinated that everyone else does and that is why I read the article.

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  6. YvonneS on January 26, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    This week we have heard other stories about people who use the internet to attract athletes, even professional ones. They talk over the internet, use text messaging and telephone calls to chase any guy who will respond. There has been someone chasing Red Skins players. This week the team management banned the known callers.

    People in general are much too trusting of those who contact them on the internet. I think Te’o showed courage on honesty in making the comments he did. He helped bring out the truth that anyone who is a public figure can be courted and yet never meet with the correspondent. A word to the wise, that is what his interview provided.

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  7. FireTag on January 26, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    I’m not sure I see the Mormon angle — I never knew he was Mormon until now, actually — and I just figured he was young and in a strange culture. If that’s the worst mistake he ever makes, good for him.

    Actually, half the country just got “catfished” in the presidential election, buying on faith somebody who was too good to be true.

    We’ll save debating which half for another time. :D

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  8. MH on January 31, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    This story keeps getting weirder. Now the hoaxer says he is in love with Teo (and he told Dr. Phil.) See http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8900688/ronaiah-tuiasosopo-says-was-love-manti-teo

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  9. Rigel Hawthorne on January 31, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    I would like to hear the hoaxer do Lennay’s voice. Anyone have a link to him doing a demonstration?

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  10. mh on January 31, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    Actually, Dr Phil asked him too do his impression, and her refused. Dr Phil had the FBI analyze the tape, and they said that voice is not tuiasisopo. the interview it’s supposed too run on Friday.

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  11. Jeff Spector on February 1, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    The bits and pieces of the Dr. Phil Interview I heard are just too weird.

    The only thing I can equate it to is a stalker who is madly in love with their victim, while making the victim’s life a living hell.

    I’m confused. Oh, wait that’s his line.

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  12. Nick Literski on February 1, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    I’m having a tough time believing that he was truly hoaxed. At the risk of being called a soapbox commentator (grin!), I worry that he was fully complicit in the deception, in order to hide an actual relationship that was incompatible with his faith tradition, ethnic/cultural background, and “macho” football culture. When Katie Couric sheepishly asked him whether he was gay, his reaction was awkward and exaggerated in a way SO familiar to many who’ve been in the proverbial closet.

    Obviously, only he knows the truth, but I really hope that personal shame didn’t push this young man into an embarassing, ill-fated game of deception.

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  13. Jeff Spector on February 1, 2013 at 10:48 AM


    It is quite possible, and with the long distance, imaginary “girlfriend” one can rationalize it more.

    But really, he could have just as easily had a long distance, gay relationship in much the same way.

    It would make the hoax all that much more involved for sure! Because now you have fake voicemails from a girl to hide the “truth…”

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