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Tags catfishing , online hoaxes , online relationships

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Old 17th January 2013, 06:07 AM   #1
Travis
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"Catfishing" the oddest sport ever?

They call it "catfishing" tricking people into online relationships with fictional personas. Done by some as a kind of sport to see just how many victims they can get. I first became aware of it about two years ago though I was unaware of the name for it. It, unfortunately, made me wary of jumping into an online relationship. Fortunately I did and I'm better for it especially since the woman I fell in love with was quite real.

But today the whole thing took a step into the big time with perhaps the most high profile victim of a fake online relationship yet. And this one has some weird twists!

http://espn.go.com/college-football/...pparently-hoax
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Old 17th January 2013, 07:45 AM   #2
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They aren't weird twists. The "make online friends, then pretend to die and watch them all mourn for you" is an old Internet hoax. They're usually easy to spot because while they're "alive", they tend to talk about their fictional past which usually involves being molested and raped a lot, in addition to having a few types of cancer and an abusive family or spouse (sometimes multiple such spouses over time)

Several years ago this forum was the victim of such a hoax, by a user named "Hellcat". This person's life story of neverending misery eventually became too much for some forum members to believe, and there were some serious schisms and hard feelings between the forum members who were openly skeptical and those who believed and wanted to be supportive. Eventually enough real evidence that it was a hoax was discovered and posted, whereupon "Hellcat" stopped responding and a new poster claiming to be her sister joined and informed us that Hellcat had committed suicide due to the lack of support from members of this forum. And oh by the way, the new sister had terminal cancer too.

Support forums are a magnet for these kinds of hoaxes. I used to be a member of one particular support forum where over a five-year period at least ten members ended up dying of cancer or leukemia or suicided. One, we were informed, was kidnapped and beaten to death in Rio de Janeiro by an evil uncle or some damn thing (that one I was able to expose with the help of a friend from this forum who lives in Rio). It would usually be some friend or family member who joined the forum to inform us of the tragedy, who in a shocking coincidence just so happened to have suffered the same issue that the forum was a support group for and so decided to stay and join the community; although a couple of the individuals it turned out had set up three or four different personalities on the forum simultaneously, and it was one of these other community members that ended up telling us that via special privileged channels they discovered the death/beating/whatever.

It's really among the worst kind of things the Internet has to offer.
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:22 AM   #3
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"Victim" my foot. There's no way Manti wasn't in on it. Unless he is really, really, incredibly, ridiculously, mind-bogglingly stupid.
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:23 AM   #4
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As someone who's had an online girlfriend for two years without us being able to meet yet I can see how it might happen. But I skype with my girlfriend. We exchanged gifts. I talk to her on the phone too.

So I do find it odd that he never skyped with her. Or even made an attempt to visit her after her car accident. I'm sure there might be reasons but that seems weird superficially.



But as for the larger phenomenon....what the hell?
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:24 AM   #5
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:25 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
"Victim" my foot. There's no way Manti wasn't in on it. Unless he is really, really, incredibly, ridiculously, mind-bogglingly stupid.
Several people on this forum "fell for" Hellcat's hoax; people which I would describe as not in the least bit stupid.
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:33 AM   #7
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Consider in the case of this nonexistent girlfriend, that people really do die of leukemia in real life. If you're genuine friends with someone for a while, and they end up telling you they have leukemia, it would take either a hopeless cynic or someone who's already been the victim of this kind of scam to suddenly decide that this friend must be a lying hoaxster. Manti's case is only unusual in that he's a somewhat public figure, who decided to tell the world about his sick girlfriend. Most victims of this particular game are just ordinary people who suffer in personal silence.
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:37 AM   #8
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Indeed.

A lot of men have been horrified to discover their online girlfriend was really some guy pretending to be a woman for "kicks."
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:58 AM   #9
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And a lot of people never find out. Manti's making his "girlfriend"'s story public resulted in people - third parties, unattached - being able to dig for facts and learn the truth. In this forum and the other I mentioned, likewise uninvolved skeptical people were able to uncover the facts and expose the hoax. But as an individual person, who considered this person a friend or loved one, would you be able to that? Dig into the life of your dead internet friend? I've read articles about this happening a couple of times, an individual who moves mountains to try and find their friend's family so they can give condolences and so forth, only to find out there is no family; but that's comparatively rare. How many people have the skill or ability to be able to do that all by themselves anyway, even if they had the will? It makes me wonder how many people there are out there on the internet right now, still thinking they've suffered this personal tragedy of a friend dying along with all that entails, never having had the means or opportunity to find out they'd been hoaxed.

I have no idea what the truth is in Manti's case - maybe he really was in on it - but what I can say, is that there's absolutely nothing implausible about the claim of having been hoaxed in this manner itself, because I've seen it happen several times.

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Old 17th January 2013, 09:09 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Several people on this forum "fell for" Hellcat's hoax; people which I would describe as not in the least bit stupid.
Did anyone here talk to Hellcat on the phone nightly and maintain an online relationship for an entire year without uncovering the hoax?

There's just too much that doesn't add up. They allegedly met in real life after a Notre Dame-Stanford football game. They reportedly talked on the phone nightly for a year, with 8-hour phone conversations going on nightly for months. I'd read he also "visited" her in Hawaii. If he truly is innocent, then the hoaxers were extremely dedicated, and he is incredibly gullible. In the era of Skype, there's no way anyone with half a brain falls for this for as long as this supposedly went on. Then there's the fact that this just happened to give him some nice PR for his Heisman campaign.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:12 AM   #11
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There definitely are a lot of oddities with his story.

But, his case aside, this is a real thing for many others. And it just sickens me.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:13 AM   #12
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I've had online friendships for extended periods of time with people I came to suspect of being operating with an almost entirely fictional persona, so I can understand that as well. But there's no way they'd have suckered me into a year-long romantic relationship without me sniffing them out.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:14 AM   #13
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Having read the story, my take is that Manti was in on it from the beginning. Either it started as a joke and got out of control, or the other guy was actually his boyfriend, they were trying to disguise the fact and they killed off the female persona when it got unsustainable..
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:16 AM   #14
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Wait a second - "actually his boyfriend"? Are we pulling that out of thin air or something?

ETA: If the girlfriend had just suddenly died in the alleged car crash, it would at least be easier to believe that it was an inconvenient persona being "killed off". But surviving the car crash and then slowly dying of leukemia? And announcing this "inconvenient persona"'s existence to the world in the meantime? That doesn't really work.

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Old 17th January 2013, 09:17 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
I've had online friendships for extended periods of time with people I came to suspect of being operating with an almost entirely fictional persona, so I can understand that as well. But there's no way they'd have suckered me into a year-long romantic relationship without me sniffing them out.
And people never fall for Nigerian Prince scams either. Because that is just so obviously also not on the level.

Never underestimate naivete and wishful thinking.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:18 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
Did anyone here talk to Hellcat on the phone nightly and maintain an online relationship for an entire year without uncovering the hoax?

There's just too much that doesn't add up. They allegedly met in real life after a Notre Dame-Stanford football game. They reportedly talked on the phone nightly for a year, with 8-hour phone conversations going on nightly for months. I'd read he also "visited" her in Hawaii. If he truly is innocent, then the hoaxers were extremely dedicated, and he is incredibly gullible.
More than one person claims to have met her in real life. The simplest explanation is that she is real, but merely hoaxed her illness and death.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:22 AM   #17
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Or a third party coopted her persona and created a fake relationship she was unaware of.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:28 AM   #18
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Interestingly, the alleged dead girlfriend's Twitter account tweeted last night:

Quote:
L K ‏@LennayKay

It isn't fair to drag Reagan and Troy into this.. a lot of truths and myths need to be addressed here, and they will be at noon PST tomorrow
This appears to be the original twitter account, since Manti's tweets to it from months ago are still there (even though all her own tweets are erased), but whether it's actually the same person is anybody's guess.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:41 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Wait a second - "actually his boyfriend"? Are we pulling that out of thin air or something?

ETA: If the girlfriend had just suddenly died in the alleged car crash, it would at least be easier to believe that it was an inconvenient persona being "killed off". But surviving the car crash and then slowly dying of leukemia? And announcing this "inconvenient persona"'s existence to the world in the meantime? That doesn't really work.
Well the given manner of her death allowed for the inspirational human interest story with the hospital bed-ridden Kekua telling Te'o to "honor her through the way he plays" and so on. I see that as a valid explanation.

Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
More than one person claims to have met her in real life. The simplest explanation is that she is real, but merely hoaxed her illness and death.
According to the Deadspin story, the photos shown on TV were of another woman who was not in on the hoax, so if there was a girl who met people, including Te'o, in person in the guise of Kekua, the fact that those pictures were not in fact her should have tipped some people off.

One other matter: the Deadspin article shows that the first confirmed contact between the two was in 2011 on Twitter, with Te'o tweeting "nice to meet you too ma'am" to an account allegedly belonging to Kekua. But he was supposed to have met her after a football game in 2009.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:44 AM   #20
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There's a documentary about this phenomenon called "Catfish"...I got it on Netflix a while ago.
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:48 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
According to the Deadspin story, the photos shown on TV were of another woman who was not in on the hoax, so if there was a girl who met people, including Te'o, in person in the guise of Kekua, the fact that those pictures were not in fact her should have tipped some people off.
According to the Notre Dame announcement, Te'o was not one of the people who had a face-to-face meeting with her. So - meh. I'm sure we'll find out eventually.

It is a possibility that the woman in the picture really is her. I understand the woman they found claims to have been uninvolved, but remember that we're looking for a liar.

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Old 17th January 2013, 10:07 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
There's just too much that doesn't add up. They allegedly met in real life after a Notre Dame-Stanford football game. They reportedly talked on the phone nightly for a year, with 8-hour phone conversations going on nightly for months. I'd read he also "visited" her in Hawaii. If he truly is innocent, then the hoaxers were extremely dedicated, and he is incredibly gullible.
One of the reasons psychics are so successful is that once the mark has enough invested in the psychic claptrap, there's not much you have to do, he'll string himself along nicely. And that includes embellishing the truth if need be; just like a psychic's mark is unlikely to give you a truthful and accurate picture of what the psychic has "known", the catfisher's mark will probably also do some mental gymnastics to avoid saying "I'm an all-American linebacker in a top college program scheduled to be drafted in the first round next spring, and I only know my girlfriend on Facebook".

Then again, maybe he's in on it and did it for the Heisman votes. But don't underestimate the ability of apparently normal people to confabulate to keep a comforting lie going.
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Old 17th January 2013, 10:16 AM   #23
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As has been demonstrated here, some consider the idea of having a girlfriend you've only interacted with online to be a subject of ridicule; if he was savvy enough to realize that, I suppose it's possible someone in that position might insist he met a person in real life when he hadn't. Especially if, as far as he knew, the only person who would know any better was dead.

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Old 17th January 2013, 10:22 AM   #24
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One other thing that bothers me is the funeral. I can see the hoaxer(s) having the girl tell him not to miss a game for her funeral, but what kind of person responds by saying "yeah, ok" and going out to play some football? Did he really not try to attend his girlfriend's funeral?! Did nobody among his family, friends, coaches, etc, say "this is more important than football, go out there"? Pro players will miss playoff games for things like this, but this guy wouldn't miss a regular season game?

ETA: Of course, if this is all for a Heisman Trophy campaign, you probably don't want to miss any games...
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Old 17th January 2013, 10:44 AM   #25
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Either way, Te'o is a freak'en idiot!
FWIW- I think he was in on it!
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Old 17th January 2013, 11:17 AM   #26
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Gotta admit, the term 'catfishing' is a new one on me, but I have been aware of this in online gaming for years - usually combined with 'cybering'. Often just done to get in-game gifts / currency.

But this is a whole new level. An Te'o has been fun' oot as they say here. I find it hard to believe he's not part of this somehow - never met / spoke? Awa' an boil yer heid big man.
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Old 17th January 2013, 11:40 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
"Victim" my foot. There's no way Manti wasn't in on it. Unless he is really, really, incredibly, ridiculously, mind-bogglingly stupid.
Obviously you are too intelligent to fall for such a thing. There are many, many people who aren't. I'd bet Manti Te'o is one of the not smart enough. Time will tell cuz there are several groups determined to find the truth. I suspect the truth will be somewhere in the middle of what he actually knew.
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Old 17th January 2013, 01:18 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by KatieG View Post
Obviously you are too intelligent to fall for such a thing. There are many, many people who aren't. I'd bet Manti Te'o is one of the not smart enough. Time will tell cuz there are several groups determined to find the truth. I suspect the truth will be somewhere in the middle of what he actually knew.
He, and his family, told stories of meeting her face to face. The whole thing is BS!
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Old 17th January 2013, 01:59 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Dog Town View Post
He, and his family, told stories of meeting her face to face. The whole thing is BS!
Maybe. Then again, the most successful scams get the mark to scam him/herself. It's not that different from an audience member admitting to a non-existing ailment when a psychic asks him if he's got prostatic cancer.
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Old 17th January 2013, 02:02 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by timhau View Post
Maybe. Then again, the most successful scams get the mark to scam him/herself. It's not that different from an audience member admitting to a non-existing ailment when a psychic asks him if he's got prostatic cancer.
What scam? No one had anything to gain, but him!
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Old 17th January 2013, 02:02 PM   #31
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GQ article

Originally Posted by Travis View Post
Indeed.

A lot of men have been horrified to discover their online girlfriend was really some guy pretending to be a woman for "kicks."
Indeed. There was an indie movie about this several years ago, based on an article by Davy Rothbart in GQ. The name of the movie was "Easier with Practice."
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Old 17th January 2013, 03:26 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Dog Town View Post
What scam? No one had anything to gain, but him!
What did he have to gain? I have my doubts.
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Old 17th January 2013, 03:29 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
What did he have to gain? I have my doubts.
Have you researched this at all?


I'll give you a start.
http://espn.go.com/college-football/...rlfriend-angle
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Old 17th January 2013, 03:56 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Dog Town View Post
Have you researched this at all?


I'll give you a start.
http://espn.go.com/college-football/...rlfriend-angle
Some strange values of the word "gain" there. Certainly nothing material; and what little locker room credibility he "gained" doesn't seem to have come until after the alleged girl's death, so why he interacted with the person before that still has to be explained.
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Old 17th January 2013, 03:58 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Some strange values of the word "gain" there. Certainly nothing material; and what little locker room credibility he "gained" doesn't seem to have come until after the alleged girl's death, so why he interacted with the person before that still has to be explained.
I can only lead you to the water. Believe what you will, pffftt...
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Old 17th January 2013, 04:26 PM   #36
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From the link:

Originally Posted by Manti Te'o
"My family and my girlfriend's family have received so much love and support from the Notre Dame family."
That statement can't possibly be true, as the "girlfriend" had no family to be contacted, by ND, Te'o, or anyone else. I suppose there could have been additional people in on the hoax who pretended over the phone to be Kekua's relatives, but we're starting to run afoul of Occam's Razor very quickly with that reasoning.
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Old 17th January 2013, 04:29 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by maxpower1227 View Post
From the link:



That statement can't possibly be true, as the "girlfriend" had no family to be contacted, by ND, Te'o, or anyone else. I suppose there could have been additional people in on the hoax who pretended over the phone to be Kekua's relatives, but we're starting to run afoul of Occam's Razor very quickly with that reasoning.

I wanna see some phone records, of these all night long calls, for months!
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:33 PM   #38
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So he embellished. He told his family they met two years before they actually did. He told other people that he had actually met her in real life.

Is it that hard to believe? I mean look at all the people raking him over the coals for having an online girlfriend instead of just bedding random football groupies.
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Old 17th January 2013, 08:56 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
So he embellished.
If by embellished, you mean make a bunch of **** up! Then told great stories of their love, and his loss. This Kat knew what he was doing. Fame is a powerful drug!
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Old 17th January 2013, 09:19 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Dog Town View Post
If by embellished, you mean make a bunch of **** up! Then told great stories of their love, and his loss. This Kat knew what he was doing. Fame is a powerful drug!

If by this point he had become aware of the deception, I expect he'd likely say anything it took to avoid being shown for having played the fool. That meant that since nobody would have known any better, continuing to tell the same story he had been telling before he found out the truth.

Not fame, but pride.
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