A lot of questions have been raised in the Mante Te’o fake girlfriend hoax. But one question reporters have not asked is how Te’o’s Samoan culture impacted the way the hoax played out. Ilana Gershon, an anthropologist and associate professor of communication and culture at Indiana University, tackled this tricky question in The Atlantic.
Gershon says much of Te’o’s cultural upbringing surfaces in his recent off camera interview with ESPN. She wrote:
“What strikes me as particularly Samoan about Te’o’s comments to ESPN is that he opens with a very familiar Samoan worry. It is not his own shame he is concerned about; he is worried about the shame this will bring to his whole family, all those who share his last name. Concern about family comes up time and time again in his tale.”
Gershon also points out that while Te’o never personally saw his girlfriend in the four years of their relationship, he found the time for family reunions. Te’o also worried about how his family would perceive his girlfriend.