The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 24, 2013

Man oh Manti: Te’o is caught in a tangled Web

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Lying is like eating potato chips from a freshly opened bag. Once you start, it’s nigh onto impossible to stop.

Just a week after fallen cycling king Lance Armstrong admitted to being a liar and a cheat in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Manti Te’o sat down with Katie Couric this week and discussed lies — his and those he said were perpetrated upon him.

Te’o, of course, is the star Notre Dame linebacker who reportedly had both his girlfriend and beloved grandmother die on the same day last September. His story was inspiring, heartwarming, and only half true.

Te’o’s grandma did die, but the girlfriend not only didn’t die, but never even existed.

Te’o told Couric he played no part in the hoax, though he admitted he answered questions about his “late” girlfriend Lennay Kekua even after Dec. 6, when he learned she wasn’t real.

Te’o said he didn’t lie, but was just not forthcoming.

“I never was asked, ‘Did you see her in person?’”

Actually he was, by his father.

“The biggest lie I’m sorry for is the lie that I told my dad,” Te’o told Couric. “He asked me, ‘Did you see her?’ I said, ‘No, I mean, yes.’ As a child, your biggest thing is to get approval of your parents.”

So Te’o even lied about lying. See how easy it can be?

Obviously the people who pulled this stunt on Te’o lied to him.

The voice, reportedly Lennay’s, that he heard on his cell phone apparently was that of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, an acquaintance of Manti’s, a male acquaintance.

The star linebacker said he misled people about the existence of Kekua because he didn’t want to be seen as a “weirdo” for not having met her in person.

Really? What is weird about falling deeply in love with the online photo (of another girl) and telephone voice (of a guy pretending to be a girl) of a person you had never met either in person or even via face to face chat on the Internet or by cell phone?

Well, everything, which brings us back to our topic. Perhaps Te’o was lying to himself as much as the Lennay hoax perpetrators were lying to him.

Lying is easy to start, hard to stop and wickedly hard to maintain. One lie begets another, and another, until you can no longer tell what’s real and what’s not.

Richard Nixon was brought down not so much by the deeds of his administration during the whole Watergate mess, but by the lies that were spun afterward. The same is true of Bill Clinton.

Te’o isn’t the first member of Notre Dame’s football family to be tripped up by a lie.

George O’Leary took over as the Fighting Irish’s football coach in 2001 after a successful stint at Georgia Tech.

However, O’Leary was out of a job just days later when it was discovered he had lied on his resume, claiming he had a master’s degree he never earned. He also said he was a football letterman at the University of New Hampshire, when he never got into even one game.

Heck, what O’Leary did was not against the law. Just ask the U.S. Supreme Court, which last summer struck down a law adopted by Congress in 2006 that made it a crime to lie about having earned military honors. The court ruled that such prevarication is protected speech.

Heck, nobody protected me when my parents caught me in a lie.

Where was the Supreme Court when I needed it?

Doing something that aroused the ire of my mom and dad was bad enough, but if I lied about it and got caught, the consequences were magnified tenfold.

Not that parents are always truthful with their children.

A study of families in the U.S. and China found that most parents lie to their kids in order to change their offsprings’ behavior, 84 percent in the U.S. and 98 percent in China.

The most popular lie involved parents threatening to leave their children alone unless they ceased throwing a public tantrum. I knew it, I knew they would never abandon me.

Another lie parents tell a child begging for a toy is that they didn’t bring any money to the store that day, and that they would go back to the store another day.

I knew it. I knew they had money.

Such fibs are known as “instrumental lying,” according to the publication conducting the survey, the International Journal of Psychology. Instrumental as in fiddling with the truth?

A lie is a lie, and is best avoided at all costs, unless, of course, telling the truth would hurt someone else’s feelings, especially your wife or girlfriend (the real, flesh and blood kind).

It is said the truth hurts, but not as much as being caught in a lie.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.