September 23, 2021

As ESPN Debated, Te’o Story Slipped Away

Some inside the network argued that its reporters — who had initially been put onto the story by Tom Condon, Te’o’s agent — had enough material to justify publishing an article. Others were less sure and pushed to get an interview with Te’o, something that might happen as soon as the next day. For them, it was a question of journalistic standards. They did not want to be wrong.

“We were very close,” said Vince Doria, ESPN’s chief for news. “We wanted to be very careful.”

ESPN held the story, and then lost it.

That afternoon, Deadspin, a sports Web site, reported that the girlfriend did not exist. She had never lived. She had never died. She had never met with or talked to Te’o over the many months he thought he was in contact with a thoughtful, gravely ill Stanford alumna named Lennay Kekua. Deadspin strongly suggested that Te’o was complicit in the fake tale and had exploited it to bolster his bid for acclaim.

Deadspin, its editor said in an interview this week, had also received a tip about the hoax, a day after ESPN had been alerted. The Web site assigned two reporters to the story. At the heart of the article Deadspin published was a reverse-image Internet search of the photograph on Twitter that Te’o, a star linebacker, had relied upon as proof of Kekua’s existence. It had been lifted from the Facebook account of an unsuspecting California woman who had never spoken with Te’o.

“Given the same amount of information that we had, I can’t think of a media outlet that wouldn’t run with that,” Tommy Craggs, Deadspin’s editor, said.

For some, the debate within ESPN quickly gave way to regret and reflection. Three ESPN executives interviewed in recent days said they should have published on Jan. 16. The executives, who would not be identified because they did not want to second-guess their organization by name, said that the network’s focus on waiting until getting an interview with Te’o was a mistake.

“If I had my druthers, we would have run with it,” one executive said. “We’ve had a bunch of discussions internally since then, and I don’t think it will happen this way again. I wonder sometimes if perfection is the enemy of the practical.”

ESPN has faced considerable skepticism over the years about its ability to aggressively report on potentially embarrassing issues involving the leagues and universities with which it has an array of lucrative broadcast deals. Just days before learning that the Kekua story might be a hoax, ESPN televised Notre Dame’s loss to Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series title game before the second-largest audience in cable television history.

In this instance, there does not seem to be any obvious competing interest that might have blunted ESPN’s vigor in reporting the story. Except, perhaps, the value it attaches to having its subjects on camera. ESPN, as a journalistic matter, said it needed to talk to Te’o. But ESPN, as a competitive broadcaster, also dearly wanted that to happen on camera. Despite its broad expansion into radio, print and digital outlets, ESPN’s greatest strength is built on the power of video.

“On-camera is always our primary interest,” a senior ESPN executive said.

Craggs, the Deadspin editor, did not think much of ESPN’s assertion on the value of video or its invocation of standards.

“When they talk about standards, they may be talking about waiting for some kind of official response from Notre Dame or Manti, which is just idiotic,” Craggs said. He added: “This is a story about a social media hoax. As soon as the principals know we’re working on it, the story starts to change. They start ripping things down.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 22, 2013

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the girlfriend in the hoax involving Manti Te’o. It is Lennay Kekua, not Kakua.

Article source:

Former S.E.C. Official Represented Indicted Financier, Agency Says

Spencer Barasch, former head of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Fort Worth, Tex., is being investigated by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to testimony on Friday by Robert Khuzami, the S.E.C. enforcement director, and David Kotz, the agency’s inspector general.

The criminal inquiry follows S.E.C. internal findings that Mr. Barasch made numerous requests after he left the S.E.C. to represent Mr. Stanford and was turned down each time.

Mr. Barasch persisted in his requests even though he directly dealt with the Stanford case while at the S.E.C. and was partly responsible for ignoring repeated red flags S.E.C. examiners raised about Mr. Stanford as early as 1997, Mr. Kotz found in a 2010 report. He eventually did provide some legal counsel to Mr. Stanford in 2006, the report found.

“We made a referral to criminal authorities,” Mr. Khuzami told a House Financial Services oversight subcommittee.

In addition, Mr. Kotz and Mr. Khuzami said they had referred the matter for investigation to the Texas and Washington bars.

Republican lawmakers called the hearing to investigate why it took the S.E.C. so long to investigate Mr. Stanford despite repeated attempts by S.E.C. examiners to bring the matter to the enforcement division’s attention.

The agency finally filed civil charges against Mr. Stanford in February 2009. He was arrested in June 2009 and criminally charged with fraud in connection with a $7 billion scheme linked to certificates of deposit issued by his Antigua-based banking company. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Article source: