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The psychology and legality of the Manti Te’o hoax

by AirTalk®

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Linebacker Manti Te'o of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish works out at IMG Academy on January 23, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida. J. Meric/Getty Images

After many twists and turns, it looks like the Manti Te’o story is starting to become clear.

First, he had a long-distance girlfriend who passed away after the death of his grandmother. Then, he comes out and says she wasn’t real, at which other people are labeled as perpetuating a hoax against the football player. Now, the man who was behind it all is speaking out to provide his side of the story. In an interview with Dr. Phil, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted to masterminding the plan because he was in love with Te’o. In an effort to get close to him, Tuiasosopo went so far as to create an online profile, establish a back story, and even use a woman’s voice on the phone when talking to Te’o, which he did quite regularly. Now that everyone knows the what, people are asking, “Why?”

What are the psychological aspects of this story? Why would someone create a fake profile and pretend to be someone else? How did Te’o fall for it, or sustain it? And what’s next? Some are saying that Te’o has legitimate grounds to sue Tuiasosopo for online fraud. Could he have a case? If it went to court, how would a jury view Te’o’s plight?

Michael McCann, director of the Sports & Entertainment Law Institute at University of New Hampshire and legal analyst for the Sports Law blog

Dr. Clark Smith, MD, psychiatrist in San Diego specializing in addiction

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