Take Two for January 17, 2013

Why didn't the sports media fact check the story of Manti Te'o's girlfriend?

Discover BCS National Championship - Notre Dame v Alabama

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish warms up prior to playing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

What to make of the news of Manti Te'o today? If you're unfamiliar with him, he's the Notre Dame linebacker who nearly won the Heisman Trophy this season amid intense personal tragedy.  

As reported by Sports Illustrated, In the span of six hours last September, Te'o had lost his grandmother and his girlfriend, who had been diagnosed with leukemia. It was a story that was made for the headlines: a story of a Mormon linebacker leading his Catholic school to victory while mourning the loss of two loved ones.

However, in a shocking report by Deadspin, the widely reported story of Te'os girlfriend dying of leukemia, was not true, namely because the girl herself does not appear to exist. In fact, the picture used in her online profiles is not her at all, but another 22-year-old woman who does not have cancer and has never met Te'o in her life. 

Is Te'o the victim of an elaborate hoax in which the girlfriend he met online was fabricated, like in the 2010 movie "Catfish"? Did Te'o himself make up the tragic story of the non-existent girlfriend?

Whatever the real story, perhaps the biggest mystery is why the sports media was so receptive to a story so phony it reads like an elevator pitch to a Hollywood movie.

NPR's David Folkenflik is here to unspool this tale of myth-making and myth dismantling.


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