Notre Dame's Lennay Kekua "Investigation" Basically Consisted Of A Few Guys Using Google And LexisNexis

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Today's South Bend Tribune has the first full account of Notre Dame's investigation of the Lennay Kekua hoax, and it's startling how little investigation actually went on. According to the university, Te'o informed officials of his dead/undead girlfriend on Dec. 26, and Notre Dame proceeded from there. The university hired outside private investigators on Jan. 2, and concluded its investigation on Jan. 4. What happened during those two days? The investigators searched "several sophisticated databases." Anything else?

The investigation ordered by Notre Dame was limited to the electronic search, [spokesman Dennis] Brown said. Investigators did not interview Te'o or his family, nor did anyone attempt to contact Ronaiah Tuiasosopo or any of his relatives.

In response to questions, university officials said the investigators did not examine cell phone records, e-mails or other electronic communication to determine the length or extent of Te'o's communication over the past few years with the person claiming to be Lennay Kekua, nor did the university ask Te'o to take a lie detector test.


The university did obtain some materials from Te'o—the "MSMK" photo from late December, a supposed home address for Lennay that reportedly connected back to Tuiasosopo—but the outside investigators never interviewed him or got more from him. Yahoo's Dan Wetzel—who, recall, wrote his own story mentioning Lennay in September—had reported on Saturday, in an as-yet-uncorrected column, that "private investigators and forensic computer experts... went through Te'o's computer, emails, social-media accounts, phone bills and other documents." Nothing like that happened. (Update 1:20 p.m.: this portion of the Wetzel post has now been rewritten to reflect the information contained in the South Bend Tribune's report, without annotation.)

No matter the limits of its investigation, Notre Dame had become convinced that Kekua never existed by Jan. 4. The school decided against revealing it publicly. Officials felt it would be unfair to Alabama and the rest of the athletes playing in the game. The Tribune report also indicates that the school advised Te'o to deflect questions about Kekua and her impact on his season by saying he wanted to focus on the game. But there had been debate on the matter.

Some of the small group of administrators wrestling with the Te'o problem had argued for disclosing the news immediately, the other official said. And university leaders discussed over several days whether they should disclose the hoax to the public before the bowl game, Brown said.

But at some point in the couple days just before the bowl game, it seemed apparent that exposing the hoax then would not be in the best interest of the teams or the individuals involved, Brown said.

"There was kind of a realization that this would be a circus. It would be unfair to Alabama, it would be unfair to all the other players not involved, that this suddenly becomes bigger than the national championship football game - bearing in mind that we never intended that it would stay private," said one university official.

Notre Dame leaders also wondered if that's what the hoaxers wanted—to cause such a disruption that it would influence the outcome of the game. "Did they want to destroy the atmosphere of the national championship game?" the official said.


Instead, officials decided to avoid the circus and wait until there was nothing else going on in college football. Notre Dame's president, the Reverend John Jenkins, also decided after consulting with various administrators that Te'o and his agent—who the family indicated would be hired shortly after the game—would disclose the hoax, not the school. It was Notre Dame's understanding that Te'o would announce the hoax on his own with a major network "a week ago," but he obviously never did.

Investigating the hoax [South Bend Tribune]