Photo Credit: KatieCouric.com
When Katie Couric sat down with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o for an interview that aired Thursday afternoon, the expectation was that she'd go easy on him. (Mainly because they share a publicist.) To our surprise, Couric didn't hold back.
For nearly an hour, Couric bombarded the 22-year-old football star (and his parents) with tough questions about the relationship hoax that has rocked the media. She challenged him about his role in the creation of Lennay Kekua, the imaginary girlfriend who died of imaginary cancer while supposedly dating Te'o. (He maintains that he was the victim of a very convincing con job.) She interrogated him about why he never visited Kekua in the hospital when she was supposedly in a coma, then dying of cancer. (He didn't really have a satisfactory answer.) She asked if he was gay, a popular theory as to why he might have perpetuated the hoax himself. (His reply: "Far from it.") Alternately, why didn't he date a girl on campus? (Because he had yet to meet a beautiful Polynesian Mormon girl at Notre Dame. Fair.) To her credit, Couric also did some digging into his phone and internet records, discovering that his phone bill checked out, and airing some of Kekua's supposed voicemails.
But as thorough as Couric was, there are still plenty of suspicious details about the Lennay Kekua hoax -- enough to keep the scandal going for awhile. Here are six lingering questions that remain after Couric's exclusive interview.
Does Manti Te'o have a history of incredible naivete? Has he ever sent money to a stranger who emailed him from Nigeria, for instance, or fallen for another girl's lies? Is there anecdotal evidence that he's far too trusting? Alternately, has he ever been guilty of scheming to get ahead in life or football? Some personal details would be helpful in sorting this thing out.
How did the "relationship" begin? Per Deadspin, Te'o has given different accounts of how old he was when he began "dating" Kekua. Assuming he thought everything happening was real, when did they actually get together? What did she have that other girls didn't? At what point did he decide he was in love? And while we're at it, did they ever fight? If he was truly invested in the relationship, these details should come easily.
What was Manti's relationship to the hoaxster? This is something else that Te'o has given the media conflicting information about. He told Couric that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged man behind the hoax, was someone he barely knew, and that they had one brief conversation in which Tuiasosopo explained his motives. "He was trying to help people," Te'o said. Really? He totally accepted that nonsensical motivation from a guy he barely knew? Something is weird here.
Why didn't Te'o talk about Lennay Kekua until after her "death"? Per Time magazine's timeline, Te'o didn't start spilling details about Kekua until after she "died," at which point he told the press lots of untrue stories about their relationship. If he really believed he was dating this person, why didn't it merit mention beforehand? And why all the lying? He told Couric he was scared and embarrassed, but that doesn't explain the extent of his fabrications.
What did Manti's father know? Not to go all conspiracy-theorist here, but did anyone else find Manti's dad to be incredibly lucid about the hoax? He had all kinds of ideas about why someone would pull one over on Manti. He didn't find it suspicious that he'd never met Lennay. He also seems to have guilt-tripped Manti about this more than anybody else in his life. Is it possible that one or both parents took part in the deception, or helped perpetuate it, with or without their son's knowledge?
Who was the girl posing as Lennay Kekua? This is the big mystery. Someone supposedly called Manti every night. In the recordings played on Katie, it sure sounded like a woman. The woman in the photographs of "Lennay," a friend of Tuiasosopo's named Diane O'Meara, swears she had no idea that her pictures were being used to dupe Te'o. So who was the woman on the phone? We wonder if we will ever find out -- and we wonder which people in Te'o's life knew all along.
Listen to the fake voicemails here:
See a clip from the interview here: