At first glance, the embarrassing, treacly press conference presentation made by Notre Dame’s AD Swarbrick last night appears to have been extremely risky, since he jumped in — up to his neck — in favor of Te’o’s credibility.
And what with the Woodward & Bernstein-type of press investigatory onslaught which is sure to come, I’m guessing some good strong new facts will emerge within the next few days. I’ll also guess that most of those will damn Te’o, and might undermine his insistence that he was a victim of the hoax. (Why, for example, did he not Skype his girlfriend, even once?)
Until then, I’m much more dismayed by the behavior and statements by AD Swarbrick; I’ll give Te’o a pass for now.
Swarbrick’s statement yesterday, in fact, was the only one he could have reasonably made, because Swarbrick had– starting on December 26, when Te’o told him that the “girlfriend story” was a hoax — already taken an extraordinarily foolish, employment-jeopardizing risk, starting on Dec. 26, when Swarbrick decided to engineer a Notre Dame-wide plan to tell no one about the discovery of a hoax. And no one, in fact, breathed a word.
A Quick Freeze-Frame: Teo tells Swarbrick on Dec. 26 that the whole story is a hoax — BOOM! — Swarbrick had a clear unequivocal duty to immediately, on Dec. 26, fully inform the deceived public – millions of people – of that deception.
Swarbrick and Notre Dame knew two weeks before the National Championship game that this story was false — and never told anyone. Someone at Notre Dame, most likely Swarbrick, generated an order that no one was to breath a word about the hoax.
So Swarbrick’s tearful performance was the only tack he could take, because he’d already boxed himself in. The risk he took on Dec 26 — to not come clean about the falsity of the central narrative of ND football in 2013, hoping that it would all just blow over and never come to the fore –had just blown up on him. Swarbrick had foolishly gambled on the hope that no one would ever know about the hoax — but in so doing, he (and others in the ND athletics operation) violated their duty of good faith and fair dealing with the press and the’ public – and should no longer be trusted to deal with the public honestly.
Look back: this Te’o girlfriend death hoax remained, between December 26 and the Bama/Notre Dame National Championship game, as the gold-leafed “hook” in the entire ND football narrative leading up to that game, a hook repeated, massaged and fondled by the press, fueling rabid interest in (and multi-million dollar income from) Notre Dame’s National Championship quest.
Just by way of stark contrast, Notre Dame President John Jenkins, after the death of Declan Sullivan in the Fall of 2011, quickly issued a plain, honest statement admitting the truth: that ND had screwed up, and failed to satisfy a reasonable standard of care by placing Sullivan on a high crane, in high winds, at the time he fell to his death. Jenkins should be furious with Swarbrick for having taken affirmative and wilful steps to blind the press and the public for three weeks, thereby intentionally burying the truth.
Swarbrick’s Ruse for Hiding the Truth: Of course Swarbrick’s implicit excuse for wilfully deceiving millions of people about the Te’o hoax is that Notre Dame needed “time to do an investigation.”
This makes no sense. Te’o told him a bald, astonishing fact on Dec. 26: that the girl did not exist, she never lived, and never died, and that he (Te’o) had been bamboozled and duped.
So there was no need whatsoever, on Dec. 26, to delay telling the public the hoax. All parties were in agreement that a (whopping) hoax had occurred, and had been consumed as truth by unwitting millions of Americans. No one needed to “investigate” any further to conclude that a whale of a hoax had been perpetrated on millions of people.
Yes, there was a possibility that other facts might later develop (as is true with any story), including facts which might undermine Te’o’s “victimhood” claim. So, yes, Swarbrick probably had a duty to investigate such second, distinct and separate potential falsehood. But that had no effect on Swarbrick’s strict, absolute duty to tell the public about the hoax.
Swarbrick should’ve told the public and the press on Dec. 26: “We know this much for certain: the entire story is false. Stop reporting it as true. We will investigate further, and will timely update you as to any further pertinent facts.”
Instead, Swarbrick intentionally concealed the truth — until an external press blew it up on him — in order to preserve that glittering, shiny (patently) false national narrative about Te’o’s heroism in the face of so much tragedy.
So the “investigation” (the results of which Swarbrick now very conveniently refuses to make public, even though he’s just been caught concealing facts for three weeks and owes that public a complete accounting) is really a Swarbrick ruse, meant to divert attention away from his plain, ongoing deceit. (Perhaps even more objectionable was Swarbrick’s schoolboy excuse that Te’o had really been “intending to disclose” the hoax “next week” — until Deadspin broke the story yesterday.)
Absent some good new – and radically different — explanation, Swardbrick’s not just a huge part of the problem. For now, Swarbrick is the problem. In fact, it’s probably most likely that Swarbrick has “called all the shots” about how to handle this mess since Dec. 26 — and that the entire deception since Dec. 26 is Swarbrick’s – not Te’o’s.
He backed Te’o yesterday because Swarbrick had been ‘all-in’ on a conn for the past three weeks. Swarbrick duped the press and the public.
[Note: For a good, somewhat random copy of the top humorous or trenchant tweets about this story, as it unfolded on the night of Jan. 16, see this post “Bird Words From the Herd – A Transcript of Tweets re: Deadspin and Te’o’s Dead-Spin“]