The hoax surrounding Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s made up girlfriend Lennay Kekua was not a story that should have been Deadspin's responsibility to uncover, said writer Timothy Burke. One of the scribes of the Web site’s explosive expose that described an elaborate hoax and failings of major media outlets to uncover it, spoke Thursday morning on The Dan Patrick Show.
Burke said Deadspin will have a new story Thursday that delves into how major publications and news sources like Sports Illustrated and the Associated Press dropped the ball.
“From the beginning I want to know how complicit the media was in this story. How can we look at what the media did,” Burke said. “It should not be Deadspin’s responsibility to make sure that what’s reported is true.”
Burke said he originally began his investigation with a simple Google search, and right away things seemed fishy.
“Nothing came up other than she was T’eo’s girlfriend,” he said. “There were five different dates media sources said she died on. One or two of these conflicts of information should have raised a flag,”
From there, Burke and fellow writer Jack Dickey looked into all the media reports that said Kekua had died on the same day as Te’o’s grandmother, supposedly after a long battle with leukemia.
Deadspin’s report was released on Wednesday, and discovered that no one by the name of Lennay Kekua was registered at Stanford or had died, which was part of the original story that made Te’o an inspiration throughout the college football season.
Before publishing, Burke said Deadspin asked Notre Dame for comment and called Te’o, but his phone was not accepting calls. Burke also addressed critics like Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde, who said Deadspin should not have published without comment form Te’o or Notre Dame.
“We’re Deadspin, people don’t usually get back to us,” Burke said.
Burke still has many questions, including when Te’o found out Kekua wasn’t real, and that he finds it hard to believe the All-American didn’t know.
“I want to know when he found out,” Burke said. “He said in his statement that he found out on Dec. 26. Why didn’t you ever correct any of the stories that you knew weren’t true? Why didn’t you correct any of these stories that led to this legend? The fact that it was reported makes it part of the truth.
“I have a hard time believing that someone like him could be fooled. That she was a real person. He had an incentive to have people believe she existed. There’s a lot more reasons for him to have been in on it, rather than not.”
Patrick, a former anchor at ESPN and known for his tenacious criticism of the network, asked Burke if he thought that ESPN had Te’o’s hoax story before the BCS title game. ESPN broadcasted the game against Alabama on Jan. 7, but Burke gave his opinion and said he didn’t know if that was true.
“If that’s true, that’s in line with ESPN’s thinking,” Burke said. “That they decline the editorial with the entertainment side of thinking.”