White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that he found "fascinating" a Deadspin report revealing Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o's girlfriend to be a hoax, but had not discussed the story with the president.
Carney said he had read the report Wednesday night, but had not mentioned it to Obama in the interim.
The story, published Wednesday, shook the world of college football and quickly exploded into the national consciousness.
Multiple news outlets had reported during the football season the seemingly tragic story of T'eo's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, dying of leukemia just hours after his grandmother passed away. But Deadspin reported they could find no record of the girlfriend having existed, and that biographical details — including her death, involvement in a car crash and enrollment at Stanford University — did not check out.
The website also reported that images of Kekua were actually those of a different woman.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a news conference Wednesday that it appeared T'eo was the victim of an elaborate hoax by someone using a fictitious name.
"On the morning of Dec. 26, very early morning, Manti called his coaches to inform them that while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua," Swarbrick said. "When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead. Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine."
Swarbrick said that Notre Dame had hired an independent investigative firm and, upon the conclusion of that investigation, stood by T'eo and his story.
"I want to stress, as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple of weeks, that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota," Swarbrick said.
In a statement Wednesday, T'eo called the incident "incredibly embarrassing."
"Over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her," T'eo said. "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."