FENNO: Manti Te’o’s answers about hoax just raise more questions

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Manti Te’o, have you read the transcript of your two-and-a-half hour interview with ESPN last week?

Did you see more holes in your story than Alabama poked in the Notre Dame defense you captained in the national championship game earlier this month? Do you understand the myriad questions raised in your attempt to explain how, exactly, you were duped by the girlfriend who died of leukemia in September yet turned out to be nothing more than a figment of someone’s — whose is not clear — imagination?

Did you hear about Notre Dame’s hyped investigation that turned out to have as much substance as the tragedy-turned-inspiration-turned-hoax your unexpected run to a second-place Heisman finish was built around? The investigation the South Bend Tribune reported couldn’t even rise to Hardy Boys levels of detective work like reviewing basic records and speaking with those involved?

Why, Manti, should we trust the transcript’s 14,220 words about your three-year Internet-and-phone relationship with the phantom named Lennay Kekua when lies, half-truths and contradictions have marked every turn in this mystery? When you admitted adding to those distortions and, at the least, perpetuating a myth? Are you the unquestioned victim, the Eagle Scout and academic stalwart and devout Mormon who left Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick in tears over the thought you’d never be able to trust again? Or is the truth murkier?

What should we make of your admission to ESPN that “I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, I met her before she passed away”? Or the lie to your father, Brian Te’o, about meeting your invisible girlfriend in Hawaii?

Were you bothered by the coast-to-coast hagiography that followed the invisible girlfriend’s death, heart-wrenching stories built around your relationship with a woman you never met that, as it turned out, injected life into your Heisman candidacy?

Should we believe the invisible girlfriend was the “love of your life,” but after an April car accident left her in a coma, “it never really crossed my mind” to visit her in the hospital, as you told Jeremy Schapp? Or attend her funeral, even if it was the day of your game against Michigan? Or even search for an obituary or death notice? Is that normal for the person your father talked about as his future daughter-in-law?

Did it ever strike you as odd you never had a face-to-face meeting with someone you claimed to forge a deep spiritual connection with? That — if your words are true — each time you attempted to FaceTime or Skype with her a black box prevented her from being seen? That each meeting attempt was thwarted? Or, that after your invisible girlfriend’s miraculous recovery from the coma that would strain the bounds of credulity on a daytime soap opera, you stayed on the phone with her through each night, falling asleep after prayer together and waking up with more prayer? Wouldn’t phone records make this easy to prove, Manti? Why not release them? Besides, how does your iPhone battery last that long?

Did previous girlfriends ask for your checking account information? If that didn’t set off your “alarm bells,” what, exactly, would?

After the Dec. 6 phone call that first alerted you, at least according to the transcript, that something was amiss in the case of your dead invisible girlfriend, why did you continue speaking about her during multiple interviews with all the subtlety of Guy Fieri?

If you really had been through this hell, the death of a woman you never met but told anyone who would listen how much you loved, why was this “not really” weighing on you at the Heisman ceremony in New York City on Dec. 8? How could it not?

Do you realize parts of your explanation simply don’t add up? Like your claim to have received Twitter direct messages from Roniah Tuiasosopo taking responsibility for his role in the hoax that, by your accounting, included characters ranging from the invisible girlfriend’s brothers and sisters to friends and friends’ sisters and even a niece named Pookah as part of a conspiracy so vast as to have bordered on full-time employment? But, Manti, how could he direct message you when you don’t follow accounts he’s associated with? And even after all this, you didn’t fully comprehend the invisible girlfriend wasn’t real until Deadspin’s expose last week?

Was the relationship less serious than you claimed? Have you heard of your teammates who believe so? Did you have an inkling of a hoax, even if you denied as much to ESPN? Or are we left with an example of naivety and gullibility so startling and sad as to make Forrest Gump look like a streetwise hustler?

What really happened, Manti?

Also, do you have any aspirin? The transcript gave me a headache. A real one.

Thanks.

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