Can we all give Manti Te'o a break? No, we can't, and neither could Thursday night's late night talk show hosts, as Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O'Brien all piled on the Notre Dame star with the fake girlfriend.
Since the news first emerged on Wednesday, and they didn't hammer Te'o until Thursday, some might be wondering what took them so long. The obvious answer is that they wanted their performances to be good.
David Letterman made Te'o the butt of his "Top Ten List" joke, in a list called “Top Ten Signs You Have An Imaginary Girlfriend.”
10. You describe her to friends as “a nondescript female with eyes and hair”
9. “Photo” of girlfriend looks suspiciously like SunMaid raisin lady
8. You keep referring to her in the first person
7. Have a patent pending for a machine that gives you a hickey
6. Someone says, “Tell me about your girlfriend,” you say, “Hmm…let me think of something”
5. Your imaginary friend is dating her sister
4. Everyone can tell you’re arguing on the phone with Siri
3. She’s never upset when you forget her imaginary birthday
2. Always pressuring you to pretend to buy engagement ring
1. Said she’s too shy to meet your friends, your family, and you
Letterman's rival Jay Leno mocked Te'o as follows:
Do you understand this? Apparently, he had an online girlfriend that didn’t really exist. You know where he met her? Fantasy football!
Why does a college football player need an imaginary girlfriend? Math majors, sure, but a middle linebacker, it doesn’t make any sense!
I want to give the benefit of the doubt for here -– he may have no idea of what’s real and what’s not real -– he plays for Notre Dame -- every time he makes a tackle on the field, he sees a little leprechaun!
Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans groaned when Leno called the scandal the “biggest hoax revolving around Notre Dame since they were ranked number one in the nation!”
Finally, he said that the good news is that Te’o has found a new girlfriend – “A wealthy princess from Nigeria ... I think it’s going to work out OK!”
That last one might fly over the heads of some. Leno's joke is a reference to the famous so-called Nigerian scams.
Jimmy Kimmel said the following of Lennay (now be good to the dead, Jimmy):
It turned out that the woman was Bruce Willis and that he was dead the whole time. [Referring to 1999′s "The Sixth Sense"]. Some people play fantasy football; Manti plays fantasy people!
Kimmel then air a segment in which the real Lennay Kekua was exposed as a relative of Sesame Street's long-time character, Mr. Snuffleupagus, who for many years was not visible to anyone but Big Bird.
Finally, Conan O'Brien, channeling a recurring theme said:
Some say the hoax could harm his ranking in the draft ... on the other hand it could open up an entirely new branch of fantasy football!
For those unaware, it was revealed on Wednesday that Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend, who he inspired him to new heights, never existed. While Notre Dame came forth saying he had been duped in an online scam (as did Te'o in a short statement), he has not, as yet, come forth with a press conference.
Due to embedding limitations, only the Kimmel segment is embedded. The rest, with the exception of Letterman, are available here.