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The Two Biggest Losers of Manti Teo Story: Pete Thamel and Pat Forde


forde thamel

We have talked a lot about the Manti Teo story on here and I won’t go into my thoughts on here as to whether he is simply a naive sap, a deceptive liar, or possibly both. No to me what is more interesting is the side of this beyond Teo, specifically the media’s complicity in the train wreck. Specifically, I find it fascinating that the two reporters who have been made to look the worst in the Teo situation are Pete Thamel and Pat Forde. As the Big Blue Nation surely knows, these two names are memorized by even the youngest of the Blue faithful as examples 1 and 2 of reporters who seem hell bent on bringing down John Calipari and going after his every move. For the first year of Calipari’s tenure (until ESPN made him stop writing about UK due to his Pitino connection), Pat Forde was constantly critical of Calipari, proving in print what I famously heard him say at the Calipari introductory press conference, “I just don’t like him.” For Pete Thamel, the methodology has not been character assassination in the form of columns, but instead the Henry Hyde “never ending series of investigations” mindset. If Calipari has a player, Thamel will investigate and hope to find something, no matter how minute in order to make a splashy headline. Both have been successful at getting attention with the Calipari exploits and both have been praised for their work as “journalists” in the truest sense. But ironically, the two most notorious Calipari critics/investigators have now also been shown to be the two most easily duped people in the entirety of the national sports media.

In Forde’s case, it stems from his laughable column last night in which he said he “believed Notre Dame.” Now don’t get me wrong. Everything that the Notre Dame AD said last night may be true and he may have done nothing wrong in promoting or covering up the Manti Teo story. While the entire spectacle seemed to me to be a mistake and a horrendous PR decision, at this point we have no reason to say definitively that he, or the school, has done anything wrong in this case (as opposed to say the way the Lizzy Seeberg case, for whom no tears were shed, was handled). But that is the heart of the matter…we don’t know. However Pat Forde thinks he does and believes Notre Dame…why? Because (to quote him), “I know Swarbrick fairly well over the course of maybe two dozen interactions, both professional and personal – well enough to have a read on his personality.” So there you go. Pat Forde has had dinner with Swarbrick a dozen times, they are friends and as such is able to tell with authority that he must be telling the truth. It isn’t Pat Forde as a journalist telling you this, he has no facts one way or the other, it is Pat Forde the friend and confidant of the man on which he is supposed to be reporting/commenting. Of course in making this absurd assertion, he is ignoring the most obvious lesson of the entire Manti Teo saga, the fact that we shouldn’t believe ANYTHING from public figures without verification. But rather than acknowledge the inability to make definitive judgments about ANYTHING in this case, Forde says we should believe Notre Dame because he saw the AD’s “chin quivering.” It is so unbelievably naive that it honestly is beyond further mocking.

Now as for Pete Thamel, little can warm UK fans’ hearts more than Thamel being the reporter whose false story started the Teo narrative. Thamel’s defenders will argue that it isn’t surprising that he did not pick up on the problem, because who would think a player would talk about a girlfriend dying who didnt exist. Fair enough. But as Pete himself notes today, he saw “red flags” in the story when he did the initial interview. However because he wanted to respect the player, had bought into the Teo mythology and was on a 2 hour deadline (I love that he threw in the time excuse, as if rushing a random story into the dead medium of print somehow justifies the biggest journalistic hoax in recent sports memory), let the discrepancies go. No death certificate, accident record, Nexus search or proof that his girlfriend went to Stanford, all of which to Thamel’s credit he says he noted, but for Thamel, still no problem. How does this happen? Well the best explanation is that of Slate.com today, which notes that Thamel was simply buying into the “good guy/bad guy” narrative that is standard for him. When the subject is someone Thamel doesn’t like (for instance John Calipari or the Honey Badger), no stone is left unturned in order to bring the person down. If he is a good person who Thamel believes “doesn’t have it in him” to lie to the public, then facts are just pushed to the side for a good story. Even now, Thamel says he “feels sorry” for Teo, because to admit any possible hole in Teo’s character, would also mean acknowledging the problems with his own. He is able to take the mantle of the crusading journalist against those that are perceived bad (or don’t like him) and the feel-good storyteller of those that assumed good (or give him the best scoops for him to break). It is a great dual-role that allows Thamel to confirm his biases, win praises (and retweets) from his peers, all the while controlling the narrative by selecting which facts he chooses to pursue.

To be honest, I have no idea what Manti Teo knew or when he knew it. And while I have a prurient interest in that story, it doesn’t really matter. But the journalistic bias that showcases itself with Forde/Thamel is much worse. If either member of the dastardly duo of deception is your friend, then they will write books with you, take public your leaked transcripts of players you weren’t able to recruit and break your stories when you want a nationally respected media member to be used as University public relations. When they don’t like you, they will travel to Birmingham, Louisiana or even Turkey to try and get the facts needed to bring you down. But hey, try to challenge them and you will be slapped on the wrist for not understanding the role of “objective” journalists. They don’t have bias because apparently they don’t care who wins the games. So this means they must be “objective” and simply “doing their jobs”, But unless objective means with a specific goal in mind or “doing their jobs” involves writing complimentary articles for those coaches with whom you have a financial relationship, go bar hopping or leer at Hooters waitresses at Summer recruiting events, then I don’t know how that term truly applies to them. Instead, what they are is no different than any blogger, local radio host or fan who is lucky enough to have a voice, but with the prestige that comes with a national media outlet.

Tony Kornheiser has often joked that for a writer or tv personality, the reason to get famous is in order to “help your friends, crush your enemies and get a good table at dinner.” And in today’s world of media “celebrity” caused by television and the internet allowing articles to flourish nationwide, such perks have never been made more available. For Pat Forde and Pete Thamel, any public embarrassment from this screwup will likely blow over. Their colleagues won’t call them out on it, and the only critics will be random bloggers or members of the non-sports media critics. Life will go on, as will their agendas. And in the end, they will still be able to do what they have already done. Because based on their status and recent work, they have helped create and preserve the myth of Manti Teo/Notre Dame, shed light on the supposed sins of John Calipari and the Honey Badger and will never want for the finest place setting the next time they visit South Bend.

Article written by Matt Jones

61 responses to “The Two Biggest Losers of Manti Teo Story: Pete Thamel and Pat Forde”

  1. jpo

    that picture. YES

  2. Take All Of Their Guns, Leave Them A Musket

    Compare that Thamel Transcript to the article he actually printed. He should be fired.

  3. Huh?

    “Prurient interest?” Doesn’t that mean you’re sexually aroused or curious by something? That sounds like a gay Brent Musburger thing to say. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  4. James K

    I’m gonna be honest, that depiction of Forde is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. He looks like Viggo from Ghostbuster’s II.

  5. all of us say

    BAM!!!! Take that you dregs of journalism.

  6. SweetWm

    What is this a big deal?????? Will Manti do prison time?????? Will Notre Dame forfeit all of its games?????? How much money and who paid it????? It’s like Washington DC…..they lie daily, no one calls them on it. This story is a completely waste of time.

  7. hate boner

    I hate therefore I get stiff when those I hate look limp.

  8. Big J

    I said it before about Thamel and Forde: “you reap what you sew”. Karma is a bitch boys.

  9. Greg Henson

    The biggest difference between a gossip columnist and reporter is a reporter is supposed to investigate all stories prior to print. Gossip makes for good traffic since nothing has to be verified. Shame on SI for not reprimanding Thamel. Thamel is nothing but a gossip columnist and should be working for TMZ

  10. UK Homer

    Sucks this is the (journalistic) world we live in. So many biases and unfortunately most are not transparent like Matt. I’m just happy we have the good ones out there like Bilas (usually) to truly be objective. Matt is spot on with his criticism of Forde and Thamel.

  11. Dear UL and IU fans, We are national champions; you are not. The end.

    Seriously, how does Pete Thamel still have a job. How does he still have any front teeth?

  12. CJ

    Bunch of trolls. Great job Matt

  13. BPsycho

    This **** sound like 007 on N64 and ****

  14. LansingCat

    I for one found this to be very well written and enjoyed it thoroughly. Maybe it’s because I dislike ND. Maybe it’s because I don’t like Thamel.

  15. JCPOSTEL

    3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: The SPJ Code of Ethics should come to mind. Of course, you all hate Cal or UK or both, and thus care not about this. But I give props to Matt for shining light on the two worst sports journalists in America. This story is excellent because it reveals a a truth that is plaguing the way sports are covered by certain “journalists” – that being, they are no different than bloggers. Their special interest and personal vendettas, which are manifested in instances like the Te’o fiasco (and Cal “reports), reveal without question that non-bias in their work is non-existant. It’s a shame. It deserves more attention. And if you ask me, Matt could have ripped them much worse than he did. I appreciate that they were called out. They deserve it.

  16. Dcky76

    Bingo! Cal’s an adult in a position that begs for conflict, but Bledsoe, Kanter, Cousins, etc., were student athletes and to think they weren’t/aren’t represented unfairly by these so-called journalists is simply stupid! It takes a lot of courage on your part, Matt Jones, to post this on your website. Commendable.

  17. JCPOSTEL

    FYI, I love ND. But no amount of love for a sports team can look past this flabbergasting blunder. I feel sorry for Thamel and Forde. A little.

  18. TC Says

    Haters gonna hate, but what does this have to do with reporting UK news just like the bachelor junk. Go BLUE!!!

  19. MattJonesisTheEricDanielsofUKMedia

    ON Deadspin it says the town she is supposed to be from is not a real town in California.(red flag) He did not go to the funeral of his girlfriend of 3 years.(red flag) Did they try to talk to her parents about how much he meant to them, they talked to his parents about how much they loved her.(red flag)

  20. Catlogic15

    Matt, I wish these words you wrote could find their way to a higher platform.

    Actually, there are about 4 separate (at least) stories here that could be expounded upon.

    Very nice.

  21. DesignatedDrinker

    Matt, I’m not being political here one way or the other. But, it’s the same thing that goes on in the MSM. They protect their friends or interests or agendas. The future is sites like KSR, Drudge, Huffington Post, Breitbart, The Big Lead or Deadspin. The old guard of ABC(ESPN), CBS, the NYT, SI and the like have become lazy and strictly agenda driven. It’s no different in sports than politics. Thamel was lazy with Te’O and agenda driven with Kanter and UK.

  22. nattie lite

    i cancelled my Sports Illustrated subscription a few years ago when Thamel started his S#@* against Coach C and UK. that SI allows such obvious crudge/vendetta journalism turned me off completely. there magazine sucks anyway. i say everyone cancel their subscriptions when you have complete web acces anyway to great blogs such as this one and millions of others for…….FREE! suck it Thamel and SI !!

  23. UKBlue1!

    What I want to know is if any kind of money was collected for the girlfriends funeral or her family. I want too know if either one of these “investigative” reporters will follow up on this matter. Because if Teo is the one receiving the funds this would fall under the federal guidelines of embezzlement. I believe this potentially could make him ineligible for NCAA competition.

  24. BlueD

    #18- AKA Pete’s dad

  25. BoomKentucky
  26. Harley

    Even more puzzling to me is the ESPN article that showed how Norte dame couldn’t of known since as of Tuesday put up a video of Te’o talking about his (fake)GF after the supposed day Notre dame said in their press conference. Forde IMO is the bigger idiot for not letting this play out before siding with someone.

  27. drewflex

    Matt, I can tell that you truly enjoyed writing every single word in that article. Very well done, I think you nailed it.

  28. MattJonesisTheEricDanielsofUKMedia

    On ESPN tonight, they said that a Notre Dame teammate said many of his teammates know he was making it up, and that he just liked the attention.

  29. Northfork

    Loved it.

  30. bluecat

    Seeing Thamel andn Forde looking like the idiots they are is great!!! An not to bring politics into this discussion, but the same thing has went on in the mainstream media since at least two elections ago and continues to go on today. Protect those you like and agree with, destroy those you don’t. Good journalism isn’t dead, but an endangered species in this country at many levels.

  31. Spurious

    Fact is every one on the planet accepted the story because it came from Notre Dame. Forde accepted it because ND has the right reputation. Like North Carolina and Duke. Ha. If a player at some other school told a story about dieing girlfriends and relatives every “journalist” and blogger on the planet would have investigated. Forde would have claimed to have had an interview with the girl’s spirit.

  32. Jay P.

    That pretty well sums it up Matt! Well done!

  33. black helicopter

    Nice work Matt.

    Hope this moves further up the food chain.

  34. randomer

    Matt – very very well done. Thamel is total sleaze – unbelievable.

  35. Dr. Phil

    Wasn’t their a New York Post writer that won awards for her story of a dying girl that was fake?

  36. Dude

    If both of them somehow lost their jobs over this, Te’o would become my favorite player ever.

  37. woodworm

    so what if teo duped everyone into believing he had a girlfriend. were the outcome of any of the games he played in affected? did anyone get screwed out of money? was anyone actually hurt? big deal, he just looks like an ass

  38. Ridge Runner

    Outstanding article, Matt. Well thought out facts that are being overlooked and even better is the manner you articulated them. Great job!

  39. BravoBigBlue

    Exactly right, Matt Jones!

  40. BravoBigBlue

    37 – Young man, such behavior is not looked upon fondly by people with more than half a brain. And that’s night saying a lot.

  41. Mitch rapp

    Great post about their intellectual dishonesty. They let Te’o off the hook for being “duped”, but blast Cal for playing Derrick Rose who had been officially certified by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

    So, by that logic, isn’t Cal the victim of the fallible Clearinghouse process?

  42. Mike

    Nice read…… Journalist is a fancy for “I can type and use spell check”

  43. Yo

    Forde and thameltoe still think lance Armstrong is clean

  44. Sidd Finch

    I got Teo’s girl and the two ‘pop’ sport writers pregnant.

  45. Fawn liebowitz

    Matt,

    Here is a great Thamel article from the Stanford advocate.
    http://www.stanforddaily.com/2013/01/17/pete-thamel-dropped-the-ball-on-manti-teos-girlfriend-hoax/

  46. Pat Forde

    Too/to. Their/there. Sew/sow. All UK and Cal fans are stupid. Now I have to write an objective article about Cal’s one-and-done philosophy.

  47. Thunder

    Very well done Matt. Hopefully this can get passed around like the Slate article did.

  48. Statemediadoesworsedaily

    Think this is bad? Our president gave military level assault rifles to Mexican cartels in hopes of getting our gun rights removed, and the press completely covered his ass. They cover his ass daily, and you all consider this bad?

  49. Rae

    35. If we are thinking of the same situation, it was the Washington Post and a drug dealing 8-year-old that didn’t exist. Look up Jimmy’s World. She had to give back a Pulitzer and everything. She said she pieced together Jimmy from a bunch of other annecdotes. The craziest part is that Bob Woodward, part of the duo who broke the Watergate scandal, was the editor. And a class of journalism students could find the red flags almost immediately without knowing the history of the story.

  50. KirkHammet

    Where the hell is the Bad-Idea T-shirt ad?

  51. Big Whoop

    Excellent piece Matt.

    Word Games:

    Forde = Sniffs Pitino’s bicycle seat. Therefore he must hate Cal. Can’t admit when he is wrong.

    Thamel = Looks in the mirror every morning and says, “I love you.” “Facts mean nothing so I won’t bother checking.”

    Te’o = “The pity vote didn’t work in my bid for the Heisman.” “I wish I could tackle Lacy by myself.” “I’m still going to talk about my non-existent GF after my lie has been exposed.”

    Notre Dame = “He’s not a liar, he’s just stupid.”

    Alabama = “Notre Dame wears Superman Underroos.”

    Lacy = “This wimp supposed to be All-American? Hahahaha!”

    NFL = “WTF?”

    The heroes in all of this are those who have called it right. Deadspin, Greg Doyle among others. Truth still matters.

  52. Steve

    Pete Thamel and Pat Forde will soon take their place with the White House Press Corp.
    Barry Obama knows both these guys have what it takes to cover Washington and his regime.

  53. bigbluelou

    #21, my thoughts EXACTLY!

  54. Thete Pamel

    A reliable source told me Pete Thamel IS Manti Teo’s girlfriend.

  55. bluefan

    Excellent work, Matt. These guys have destroyed their own credibility. Just hope the powers that be in sports realize it.

  56. asdf

    What is the legitimate role of a sports reporter? To be like the hard news journalists or to be more like entertainment reporters, whose role is to make their chosen entertainment subject more accessible and thus, more entertaining? I say it’s the latter. I don’t want hard news from sports reporters. I don’t want arrests on my Sports Center broadcast. Once it leaves the field, then it should be reported on non-sports media because it’s no longer really sports. Sports reporting is supposed to be about the GAME.

  57. Fete Yamel

    Excellent post, Matt. #4 ROFL….Viggo…spot on

  58. maddogmitchell55

    I see you Black Label Wildcat. I see you, brother. :)

  59. back

    56 – “Sports reporting is supposed to be about the GAME.” Says who? You? We’re not supposed to have any real sports reporting because you don’t want it? If you’re not interested, don’t consume. There are endless options for accessing sports media, many of which relate strictly to the GAME (e.g., AP game recap stories). If you don’t like the interesting stuff, don’t read/watch it.

  60. bluebiscuit

    So, we’re supposed to believe that Thamel had only two hours to write a big cover story on Te’o. But he has had all the time in the world to run around the country trying to track down dirt to ruin Calipari.

  61. Jake

    “I famously heard him say…?” You’re not famous, silly. Otherwise why would you be trolling on these two a$$clowns Thamel and Forde so hard?