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CBS News, Many, Many Others, Duped by Manti Te’o Girlfriend Death Hoax

A brilliant piece of reporting on Deadspin late today will be discussed in Journalism programs — what’s left of them — on campuses for years to come. Long story short: the distressing yet inspiring story of the death of the girlfriend of one of college football’s biggest stars is a hoax.

Read the story on Deadspin. It does what so many other publications and networks — Sports Illustrated, the South Bend Tribune, the New York Times, ESPN, CBS News, the AP — did not. It uncovered one true fact: that Manti Te’o‘s girlfriend Lennay Kekua, never existed. Deadspin debunks months worth of “reporting” which amounted to regurgitated details rife with discrepancies repeated over and over again for dramatic effect.

There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest. Lennay Kekua’s last words to Manti Te’o were not “I love you.”

For his part, Te’o says he was the hoax’s greatest victim. “To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating,” he says in a statement.

“CBS This Morning” had a three-minute report on Te’o January 7. A CBSNews.com story about the hoax says the show will report on its inaccurate report tomorrow morning.

The story was reported on “ABC World News” tonight and on CNN’s AC360, Anderson Cooper spoke with Timothy Burke, editor of Deadspin.com who isn’t convinced Te’o wasn’t in on the hoax.

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