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Social media jump all over Manti Te'o hoax story

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
updated 8:50 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
  • Name of player tied to hoax rockets to top of online trends
  • Majority seem to think Te'o was either in on it or just plain stupid
  • A few come to Notre Dame player's defense; a few reserve judgment

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(CNN) -- After word broke of a hoax about the death of star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's "girlfriend," it didn't take long for "Te'o" to become the top-trending term on Twitter on Wednesday night.

After the website Deadspin published the allegations, most online comments seemed to be doubting Te'o's innocence in the matter, and more than a few were jokes at his expense.

The Deadspin article implied Te'o was involved in making up a season-long story about his long-distance relationship with a Stanford University student who died of leukemia just before underdog Notre Dame played Michigan State early in the season. However, both Te'o and the university say he was a victim.

Jack Swarbrick, director of athletics at Notre Dame, told reporters that Te'o was the victim of an elaborate hoax. "And he will carry that with him for a while," Swarbrick said.

In a separate statement, reported by ESPN, Te'o said: "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

Deadspin shares how it broke Te'o story
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Notre Dame: Manti Te'o victim of hoax

ESPN analyst Jemele Hill tweeted, "Sorry, my spidey senses aren't completely buying Manti Te'o's side of the story."

Hill questioned the details of the player's and the university's denials.

Who's who on the Internet? Who knows

"So Te'o never Skype'd, no Face Time, Gmail chat, nothing? Boy, this feels like an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent."

Hill's colleague Mike Greenberg, on the other hand, seemed to be leaning Te'o's way after listening to Swarbrick's statement:

"Just watched Swarbrick. Fully supported Te'o, which is telling. They have a lot to lose if wrong, no doubt they've been careful. #MantiTeo

Ball State University student Josh Cook was in Te'o's corner: "I believe in Te'o & his character. I believe he was played & tricked."

Doubters wonder if Heisman Trophy a factor in hoax

Twitter user Adam Knorr posted: "Manti Te'o just pulled the 3rd grade, 'I have a girlfriend. She goes to another school,' prank on the entire United States."

Bleacher Report reader Bill Rinaldi was willing to give Te'o the benefit of the doubt: "There is no proof he was in on it. People get tricked ALL the time in online relationships, just watch Catfish on MTV, or even the movie itself."

("Catfish" is a reality show that chronicles the pitfalls of online dating.)

Another Bleacher report reader, Pierre Conrad, was not so credulous: "He said he met her at Stanford. Wouldn't he have said the photos on TV and the internet were not of her? Stop attempting to defend the indefensible."

'Catfish' focuses on fake Internet relationships

Parker Wentzel, also on Bleacher Report, was circumspect: "I hope this was just a hoax played on Manti. If he was in on this, then I lose a lot of respect for him (because) the whole story fueled this season for Notre Dame and his Heisman run. Either way it's a shame."

Many Internet denizens took the opportunity to bash Te'o's performance on the field. A few examples:

"I think Manti Te'o himself is a hoax. They tell me he played in the BCS Championship and yet I didn't see him at all." -- tc4012, reader

"Roll Tide. He looked like a deer in the headlights when the Crimson Tide pushed him all over the field like a puppet. He was shellshocked. Well, maybe they can open up an investigation by the DOJ into it and he can come on Oprah with a tell all...." -- trski, reader

"Y'all Te'o wasn't missing tackles against Bama, he was hugging his girlfriend" -- Josh Jones on Twitter

"Now I know why Manti Te'o always bit on the play action fake" -- Gary Cinello on Twitter

Numerous commenters pretended to be Lance Armstrong and thanked Te'o for distracting the media from the cycling champion's doping scandal.

A Tumblr showed pictures of men posing with invisible girlfriends, instantly coining the term "Te'oing." One photo showed an empty chair on a beach, with the words, "Look how hot Teo's girlfriend is!"

"Saturday Night Live" comedian Seth Myers admonished online comics: "These Te'o jokes are all very funny but let's all try and remember that a person who never existed is dead."

Te'o in his own words

Part of complete coverage on
Manti Te'o hoax
updated 3:25 PM EST, Thu January 24, 2013
Manti Te'o has again admitted to lying, marking at least the second time he has acknowledged knowingly spreading falsities in the saga of his fake dead girlfriend.
updated 11:47 AM EST, Sun January 20, 2013
The Notre Dame linebacker told ESPN that he wasn't part of the hoax involving a deceased girlfriend.
updated 11:28 AM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
This may be the strangest twist in a tale overflowing with strangeness. Manti Te'o's deceased girlfriend tweeted late Wednesday night.
updated 9:46 AM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
Te'o is now a meme -- posting pictures of yourself with your arm around an imaginary girlfriend. They call it "Te'oing."
updated 10:44 AM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
Manti Te'o's Twitter bio reads: "Life is a storm.. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes." The storm has arrived.
updated 11:04 AM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
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updated 9:46 AM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
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updated 9:52 AM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
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updated 7:36 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
Here are some of the recent events in the bizarre story of Manti Te'o and a dead girlfriend who apparently never existed:
updated 8:50 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
After word broke of a hoax about the death of star Manti Te'o's "girlfriend," it didn't take long for "Te'o" to become the top-trending term on Twitter.
updated 7:52 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
As the big game with No. 10 Michigan State approached, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o had a heavy heart after he learned his girlfriend had lost her fight with leukemia.
updated 10:17 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
A dog tapping away at a computer keyboard turns to another dog and says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
updated 4:40 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick compared the alleged hoax about a "girlfriend" that ensnared linebacker Manti Te'o with the documentary "Catfish."
updated 11:22 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o said he was the victim of a "sick joke" that had him and legions of fans believing in a "girlfriend" who may never have existed.