Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A with St. Petersburg man who helped break story of Manti Te'o's fictional girlfriend

Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o

Wednesday's huge revelation from Deadspin.com — that the sad story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's girlfriend dying of leukemia in September was a huge hoax and that she never existed — was co-written by St. Petersburg resident Timothy Burke, who has been an editor at Deadspin since October 2011 and had spent much of the previous five days reporting the story with Deadspin writer Jack Dickey, who is a student at Columbia.

Burke, 34, is working on a doctorate in communications from USF, he's on Twitter at @bubbaprog and he also runs a blog, 30fps.mocksession.com, that has a cult following for its archive of screengrabs and video captures from TV. After a Skype appearance on CNN to speak with Anderson Cooper about the story on Wednesday night, he talked to the Times about his story.

It must be a strange and still proud acknowledgement, to see your story rolling along the ticker on ESPN as great publicity for Deadspin.

It's just bizarre to me. We had ESPN on downstairs all night, and every time I go down there, in the corner, "BREAKING NEWS: Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend did not exist." What a bizarre statement. Think about how crazy that is. That's so weird to me.

Take me back as much as you can to how this started, and all the reporting that led to this story.

We got an anonymous e-mail Friday that said, "Hey, there's something sketchy about Manti Te'o's girlfriend. You should check it out." I was actually out with (wife) Lynn somewhere in western Hillsborough County at an orange grove at the time. Both Jack Dickey and our editor-in-chief, Tommy Craggs, were messaging me frantically. "Can you check in on this?'

What do you do when you're looking for information?

To start, you go to Google. We googled "Lennay" and you find Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend. Nothing about her from before she was dead. That's a little strange. We went into, "Does she exist?" Did she go to Stanford? We called Stanford, got copies of their yearbooks, knew she wasn't a graduate, finally got word she had never attended. Does this person exist in any Social Security records? No. The Associated Press said she was buried in Carson, Calif., so we called every mortuary and funeral home in Carson. Any word? No. It just continued to go from there. Every point we looked for evidence that she existed, there was none.

Notre Dame came out Wednesday night very much in defense of Te'o, saying he was the victim of a hoax and not complicit at all, though there certainly seem to be lies from him and family members in terms of him saying he had met a girlfriend when he had a relationship exclusively online and by phone. What do you make of that?

I think they did Manti Te'o a huge disservice, as I think him releasing a statement did himself a disservice. This is a situation where nothing you can say is going to improve your situation. Every time you give a reaction, it keeps the news cycle focused on the embarrassing story. I think it would be better for Te'o if he'd come out and said, "Yeah, I set it up to win the Heisman." Whether he did or not, for his professional career, it would have been better for him to show he was cunning and clever and smart. He's a middle linebacker who has to show he can be cold and calculating. Instead, he told everyone he was a patsy. If I'm an NFL GM, that doesn't sound good to me. I would not have published any response, let it go away.

For more of the interview, visit Greg Auman's blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.

Q&A with St. Petersburg man who helped break story of Manti Te'o's fictional girlfriend 01/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. LSU's Paul Mainieri defends FSU's Mike Martin; Gators play Friday

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri says whether Florida State's Mike Martin ever wins a national championship should have no bearing on how his long career in college baseball is judged.

    MADE IT: Josh Watson beats the tag of Louisville catcher Colby Fitch during TCU’s 4-3 win in the College World Series.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101