90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, January 17, 2013

Examining The Manti Te’o Fake Girlfriend Hoax

In this April 2012, photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o appears at the Blue and Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. (Joe Raymond/AP)

In this April 2012, photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o appears at the Blue and Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. (Joe Raymond/AP)

People in the small Hawaii hometown of Manti Te’o are offering support for the Notre Dame linebacker, after the story of his girlfriend and her death from leukemia were revealed as a hoax.

No one answered the door Wednesday evening and no one appeared to be inside the modest, single-story wood home of Te’o’s parents, Brian and Ottilia Te’o, in the small coastal town of Laie on Oahu’s northern shore where Manti Te’o, an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist, was born.

But members of the mostly Mormon community said they were dumbfounded, and didn’t believe he would have knowingly perpetrated such a story. The town of about 6,000 people, roughly an hour’s drive from Honolulu, is home to a small satellite campus of Hawaii’s Brigham Young University,

Lokelani Kaiahua said Te’o’s parents were her classmates, and she knew them to have strong family values they instilled in their children.

“I just don’t see something like that being made up from him or having any part of that because they’re not those kind of people,” she said while sitting and talking with friends a few doors down from the Te’o family home. “Everybody’s kind of like `what is going on?”‘

According to media accounts that surrounded Te’o this season, his purported girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia in September. But on Wednesday, the website Deadspin.com posted a lengthy story saying there was no evidence that she ever existed.

Notre Dame officials then confirmed the hoax but were insistent that Te’o was only the victim.

Te’o is a hero and role model to many children in Laie and nearby small towns like Haaula, Kaaawa and Kahuku along the two-lane highway snaking through Oahu’s northeastern coast.

Students at Haaula often wear Notre Dame jerseys with his number “5” on them, and Te’o has returned to the area to talk to students about the importance of staying in school, said school administrator Makala Paakaula, 38.

“He always keeps giving back to his community,” Paakaula said.

Te’o should be lauded for uniting Notre Dame during his senior year when he could have left for the NFL, she said.

“It’s amazing how he brought together the whole school to become one ohana, one family, where they all belonged, where they all had a purpose,” Paakaula said.

Many people expressed anger toward whoever was behind the entire affair.

“If he got hoaxed, that’s not his fault – shame on them,” Paakaula said, “because he has a very trusting, open heart.”

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

We now have a digital bookshelf! Explore all our books coverage or browse by genre.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

January 23 4 Comments

How ‘The Good War’ In Afghanistan Went Bad

Jack Fairweather's new book argues the war could turn out to be the defining tragedy of the 21st century.

January 23 4 Comments

How To Keep That Fitness Resolution

It's that time of year when the post-New Year's crowd at the gym starts to thin. We get advice on how to stick with it.

January 22 Comment

The Playwright Behind ‘Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike’

Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning comedy is currently being performed in 27 regional theaters across the U.S.

January 22 25 Comments

EdX CEO Lays Out Disruptive Vision For Higher Ed

Anant Agarwal believes MOOCs — massive online courses — can be a disruptive force for good in higher education.