woensdag 23 januari 2013

De overleden vriendin die niet bestond

Het kan altijd gekker.
In september 2012 werd Manti Te'o, de Mormoonse linebacker van het American footballteam van Notre Dame, getroffen door het noodlot. Binnen zes uur stierf zowel zijn oma Annette Santiago als zijn vriendin Lennay Kekua.
Deadspin schrijft:
Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. [Sports Illustrated]'s Pete Thamel described how Te'o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. "Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice," Thamel wrote.
Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te'o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te'o would appear on ESPN's College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness.
Een typisch Amerikaans verhaal, van ontbering, boven jezelf uitstijgen en zo.
Maar, zo gaat Deadspin verder, er is niets van waar!
Manti Te'o did lose his grandmother this past fall. Annette Santiago died on Sept. 11, 2012, at the age of 72, according to Social Security Administration records in Nexis. But there is no SSA record there of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.
Nor is there any report of a severe auto accident involving a Lennay Kekua. Background checks turn up nothing. The Stanford registrar's office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news. Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there's no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.
The photographs identified as Kekua—in online tributes and on TV news reports—are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te'o.
Daarna reconstrueert de website welke (sport)media de afgelopen drie jaar iets schreven over Kekua en haar relatie met Te'o. In het begin zijn het vooral Sports Illustrated en de South Bend Tribune die over het meisje schrijven. Maar na haar "dood" gaan alle grote media voluit: ESPN, New York Post, LA Times, CBS, Associated Press. CBS toonde op een gegeven moment zelfs deze foto van Kekua:

Maar zegt Deadspin
This week, we got in touch with a woman living in Torrance, Calif. We'll call her Reba, to protect her identity. She was initially confused, then horrified to find that she had become the face of a dead woman. "That picture," she told us over the phone, "is a picture of me from my Facebook account."
En het wordt nog gekker, want blijkbaar communiceerden Kekua en Te'o ook via twitter met elkaar:
Lennay Kekua's Twitter name was @lovalovaloveYOU from 2011 until April 2012, @LennayKay from April until September 2012, and has been @LoveMSMK ever since. Their interactions, by and large, consisted of mild flirting. By January 2012, they were a "couple," and Te'o sprinkled #LMK (for Lennay Marie Kekua) throughout his Twitter timeline in 2012.
As for what Kekua was tweeting, we have only bits and pieces. Her Twitter was private during most of this time, though various Google caches reveal her ever-changing series of avatars and a handful of Twitpics.
All of those photographs—with one important exception—came from the private Facebook and Instagram accounts of Reba, whom we found after an exhaustive related-images search of each of Lennay's images (most of which had been modified in some way to prevent reverse image searching).
En we zijn er nog niet, want een van de foto's die Kekua op haar Twitter-profiel gebruikte (en die hier helemaal bovenaan staat), kwam niet van het Facebook-profiel van die "Reba". Dat was een foto die ze op verzoek van een oud-schoolgenoot had gemaakt en naar hem had gemaild. De naam van deze man: Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
Om een nog langer verhaal kort te maken: Tuiasosopo was een vried van Te'o en creƫerde Kekua.
De vraag is nu nog: wist Te'o dit?
In een verklaring zegt hij zelf van niet:
This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.
Maar niet iedereeen is hiervan overtuigd. Hij heeft in ieder geval de schijn tegen.

Drie keer gestorven, vijf jaar cel

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