Honesty is the Best Policy

Lately America has been inundated with lies and liars. Not that lying is a recent or an American phenomenon. Lies have been corrupting mankind since the father of all lies deceived Eve. But it almost seems like lies and deception now are the rule, not the exception. At least when it comes to public figures, politicians and star athletes.

Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Al Gore. Barack Obama. Michael Moore. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. NY Representative Anthony Weiner. Bill Clinton. And the most recent public figure caught lying: Notre Dame football star Manti T’eo.

I’m not anit-Manti. I actually rooted for him and Notre Dame against Alabama, futile as that was. I think Manti is a good guy. I also believe he was, initially, fooled into thinking that his online love interest, Lennay Kekua, was a real person genuinely interested in a relationship with him. But at some point, it’s hard to tell when for sure, Manti knew she was fake, and he made the conscious decision to perpetuate a lie.

Was it before Lennay “died” of Leukemia? Perhaps only Manti knows. But we now know, or have at least been told, that Manti knew Lennay was fake at least by December 6, 2012. Yet Manti continued to speak of her publicly as his girlfriend, and to reference her staged death.

I think Manti decided to continue the lie, in part to protect his pride, but mostly to prevent the inevitable scandal from distracting him and his team from the bowl game they were scheduled to play.

I can understand that motivation. Good people don’t want their stupid mistakes to harm people around them. Manti hoped it would all go away. Regardless, lying always catches up to you. There are more important things than winning college football games. Things like your good name. Character. Integrity.

We still don’t know everything that happened. Perhaps Manti T’eo comes out of this thing relatively unsullied. Maybe, but probably not. For the rest of his life he will likely carry a stigma with him. He lied publicly, multiple times. That won’t soon be forgotten. He certainly won’t forget. But as with anything bad that happens, as with any misdeed we commit, there are always lessons to be learned and carried with us, to make us better.

Hopefully Manti Te’o now knows, from his own sad experience, that honesty is the best policy.

2013-01-22 Update: Recent developments in the Manti scandal include: a former victim of the same alleged hoaxer (Ronaiah Tuiasosopo) coming forward; the real woman whose photos were hijacked saying that Tuiasosopo confessed the hoax to her; and Manti’s recorded interview with ESPN. Taking into account the information from these developments, I am convinced that Manti was a victim. He admitted to misleading his family into believing he’d met Kekua (he was afraid they’d talk him out of the relationship because he hadn’t met her), which lie was then perpetuated by Manti’s family and by Manti himself in the media. Probably if Manti had been honest with his family, he might have been talked out of the online romance, and he wouldn’t have become an international laughingstock. Honesty is, indeed, the best policy.

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