Friday Te'o Hoax Story Links

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Giving you a short round-up of the recent news in the unfolding Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story.

A few more stories have emerged on the scene since our last post.

Manti Te'o's great uncle Alema Te'o spoke with a Salt Lake radio station yesterday and shed some light on the infamous Ronaiah Tuiasosopo character thought to be the mastermind behind the hoax.

Alema stated that he met Tuiasosopo at this year's USC game and immediately knew something wasn't right. Tuiasosopo claimed to be the organizer behind a football camp in the American Samoa when in fact Alema was that person.

"If he's telling me that he was doing my job, then where the hell was I?" Te'o said.

Alema went on to explain the meeting with Tuiasosopo:

Te'o detailed how Tuiasosopo had with him a 9-year-old girl called Pookah, which jives with a TMZ report involving a separate meeting with Tuiasosopo and a child referred to as Pookah. Te'o said his great-nephew was "mesmerized" by Pookah and was led to believe she was a cousin of Kekua, when in fact she was one of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's sisters, according to the elder Te'o.

Alema Te'o also said Manti Te'o had previously talked on the phone with Pookah while Kekua was purportedly still alive but too tired to talk.

When one of Alema Te'o's nieces attempted to talk with Pookah, she -- according to Te'o -- didn't speak, only nodding or shaking her head while Tuiasosopo stood over her with both his hands on her shoulders.

Te'o detailed how Tuiasosopo said he was hoping to raise money for a friend of Kekua's, who also had leukemia and attended Stanford, so that person could put herself through college. That hope was characterized as a "dying wish" of Kekua's, according to Te'o.

Te'o said Tuiasosopo continually talked up a charity event for his foundation, and believed at the time Tuiasosopo was attempting to align himself with Te'o to gain notoriety for his foundation.

Alema Te'o was not afraid to point the finger at Tuiasosopo during the radio interview:

"Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing, he misrepresented whatever program that he was trying to get across to Manti, and shoot, he lied every step of the way. I don't feel it's beyond him to hire somebody or bring somebody in to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal."

Alema also stated that his family has many friends in the Tuiasosopo family (something that may have made it a lot easier for Manti to fall for the hoax), but Ronaiah was the problem.

Alema Te'o believed Manti Te'o and Tuiasosopo had been in contact a few times on Twitter and Facebook -- a claim supported by Deadspin's report -- but the meeting in Los Angeles was the pair's first face-to-face meeting. In one of Te'o's posts on Twitter, he urged Tuiasosopo to meet him Hawaii.

Te'o also said his family has many friends in the Tuiasosopo family, but only has a problem with one -- Ronaiah. Alema Te'o alerted Brian Te'o -- Manti's father -- of his suspicious regarding Tuiasosopo not long after their meeting, which was prior to Notre Dame's game against USC.

What's interesting here, though, is the first-hand account of a meeting with Tuiasosopo. Alema Te'o registered his concerns about Tuiasosopo to Brian Te'o, who relayed those concerns to Manti Te'o the day after Thanksgiving.

One thing Alema Te'o was adamant about was the family's issues with Tuiasosopo, specifically regarding the timing of Kekua's purported death. Te'o said the focus in his family shifted from grieving for Annette Santiago -- Manti Te'o's grandmother -- to making sure Manti Te'o was okay, and then grieving for the Kekua family.

"They stole that moment," Te'o said of grieving for Santiago.

A story published last night by US Weekly paints Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as a liar as well. While auditioning for the NBC show The Voice, he made up another story:

"He had this insane sob story before [he sang]," an insider reveals to Us. "It would make for great TV."

According to the source, Tuiasosopo told producers he and his cousins started a Christian band together and were on their way to perform at a youth conference in Nevada when they got into a "massive" car accident. He claimed a truck crashed into their vehicle, sending them flip-flopping all over the freeway. He also said doctors thought one of them might have been brain-dead, but miraculously, everyone was fine.

Here's a story from yesterday by USA Today that talks about how common the 'Catfish' story is right now.

"This is not an isolated phenomenon," Joseph (co-host of Catfish: The Story) told USA TODAY Sports. "It happens all the time all over the country and in fact all over the world. When the film came out, Nev pretty much believed this was a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of event. Once it came out, he started receiving thousands and thousands of e-mails from people who said they believed the same thing was happening to them, is happening to them, and that they were kind of too embarrassed to tell anyone about it until they saw his story.

NPR ran a story this morning called Media Circus: The Football Star and the Will to Believe.

Thursday, Reid revisited his piece on CBS This Morning: "It turned out, we were all duped."

Reid was right: they were duped. But Reid talked as though he had been a bystander to an unfolding disaster.

That's not how reporters typically think of themselves. They envision themselves as a hard-boiled lot that warns each new crop of interns: If your mother says she loves you, get a second source.

And yet little of that happened here. Instead, reporters left their skepticism at the door.

"I sat across from him, and I was moved by his story," ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski said on the network Wednesday night. "It was heartbreaking and it was heartwarming, and as it turns out it was totally untrue. But short of asking to see a death certificate, I'm not sure what most people would do differently in that case."

Lastly, the latest from TMZ is a short blurb from very early this morning.

Manti Te'o is telling friends ... he knew the truth about Lennay Kekua in early December ... but continued the lie for 20 days for the sake of his team.

Sources connected to Te'o say ... it's true what ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday night, that Manti realized he had been hoaxed on Dec. 6, when he got a phone call from "Lennay" ... months after he thought she was dead.

But sources tell us ... Manti didn't tell his coaches about the hoax until Dec. 26 ... because he thought it would be a huge distraction while the team prepared to face Alabama in the BCS Championship.

During the 20 days, we're told Manti struggled over how to handle the situation ... but eventually felt compelled to come clean to his coaches.

Manti is currently training for the NFL combine -- and we're told he's getting a lot of support from the guys he's been training with.

We'll provide any more updates as they emerge.

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