|'Catfish' Star Reaches Out to Manti Te'o|
|By ANTHONY CASTELLANO (@AntCastellano) , EMILY FRIEDMAN (@EmilyABC) and JOANNA STERN (@joannastern)||Jan 17, 2013, 3:02 AM|
Nev Schulman, the star and creator of the MTV show "Catfish" that follows Internet dating hoaxes, has reached out to Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o and offered to help solve his girlfriend hoax.
Te'o and Notre Dame claim he was a "catfish" victim when it was revealed that the woman he said was his girlfriend and died of leukemia never existed.
The "Catfish" television show was spawned by a movie of the same name in which Schulman tracked down a person who pretended to be a young woman he had met online.
".@MTeo_5 I know how you feel. It happened 2 me. I want 2 help tell ur story & prevent this from happening to others in the future. Lets talk," Schulman tweeted to Te'o.
Schulman says in his tweets that he has information about the baffling hoax. "I am working on finding out more about this @MTeo_5 #Catfish story. I have been in contact with the woman involved and will get the truth," Schulman tweeted on Wednesday night. It is unclear which woman Schulman has been in contact with.
However, in a statement released to ABC News, Schulman said "I have been in touch with Donna Tei. She reached out to me back in December asking for help regarding the person who had been using her photos to create a fake profile."
It's not clear whether Donna Tei was the woman whose photo was used as "girlfriend" Lennay Kekua or another person in the complicated hoax.
He also tweeted, "However his #Manti story ends, it doesn't change that we are all the victims of a #Catfish."
In an interview with ABC News, Schulman defended the possibility that Te'o had been duped.
"From what I gather, and from some contact that has been made with me with people who have been involved in this story directly, I get the impression that this is a much larger scheme than he would have thought," Schulman said.
"It doesn't seem to me that he is in on it, although, of course, that is yet to be seen. Even though it seems hard to believe because he is a high-profile football player, he is just as vulnerable and susceptible to being Catfished as anyone else."
"I think there is a lot more we are going to find out about this story," he said.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick cited the documentary "Catfish" in trying to explain how the star linebacker became a hoax victim.
"I would refer all of you, if you're not already familiar with it, with both the documentary called 'Catfish,' the MTV show which is a derivative of that documentary, and the sort of associated things you'll find online and otherwise about catfish, or catfishing," Swarbrick told reporters Wednesday.
The 2010 film stars Schulman, who was the real-life victim of a "catfish" scam. Schulman wanted to make the documentary to show how he was sucked in by an Internet pretender -- or a "catfish" -- who built an elaborate fake life.
Schulman made the documentary as he was falling for someone named "Megan," a gorgeous 20-something from Michigan. Their online relationship blossomed until Schulman confronted "Megan."
"Megan" turned out to be a middle-aged mom of two named Angela Wesselman, who later said she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
"It was different. It was something new. It was a little mysterious," Schulman told ABC News in an earlier interview, describing his reaction before he discovered Megan's true identity.
Now, a much wiser Schulman is helping others catch the "catfish" in his new hit series on MTV inspired by the real-life documentary, "Catfish: The TV Show."
In one episode, Schulman meets Sunny, who says she has been dating a medical student online named "Jameson" for eight months.
"He's going to be an anesthesiologist. He does online classes," Sunny says of "Jameson" in the episode.
Schulman convinces Sunny to take a road trip to meet "Jameson" face to face and and Sunny later finds out "Jameson" was really a woman who was pretending to be a man online for at least four years.
"I mean who does that?" Sunny said in the episode.
As more become connected through various social media outlets, Schulman says these "catfish" hoaxes will continue.
"So long as we're not looking people in the eye face-to-face, there's always going be room, a lot of room for deception," he said.