Manti Te’o Hoax: MTV’s Catfish Creators Believe He Is a Victim

Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o (5) on the sidelines during the NCAA football game between the Boston College Eagles and Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Alumni Stadium.  Anthony Nesmith/CSM CSM /Landov

MTV’s Catfish creators have launched their own investigation in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax. Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, who star in the MTV docu-series about Internet dating hoaxes, spoke to Good Morning America Friday, Jan. 18, about what they’ve discovered in the Catfish story that has made national headlines. While many reports have speculated that Te’o, a 21-year-old Notre Dame linebacker, was in on the hoax, Schulman and Joseph believe he is a victim.

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“From what I gathered, 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. I think, even though it seems hard to believe and he is a high-profile football player, he is just as vulnerable and susceptible to being Catfished as anyone.”

Te’o claimed he was the victim after Deadspin revealed his late girlfriend, Lennay Marie Kekua, who supposedly died of leukemia on the same day as his grandmother, never existed.

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Nev Schulman and Max Joseph - Catfish
Nev Schulman and Max Joseph Jamie Cary/MTV

“It appears as though someone created Lennay’s profile on Twitter, at the very least, and was engaged in relationships with people apart from Manti,” Schulman said.

“That’s definitely something that goes with what we’ve seen. They’re generally not one-off relationships with people who engage in Catfishing,” Joseph further explained. “People enjoy talking to more than one person, for various different reasons. When we meet them, they generally confess to doing it for a number of years and having spoken to anywhere from one to hundreds of people.”

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The hoax involving Te’o was allegedly conceived by someone named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, and a source told Us Weekly that he may have previously concocted a sad story while auditioning for NBC’s The Voice. “He had this insane sob story before [he sang],” an insider revealed to Us. “It would make for great TV.”

Tuaisosopo “passed a background check and psych evaluation,” which is standard for all reality TV show contestants. “Nothing came up, no suspicious behavior,” the source said. However, in light of what people now know about the Te’o girlfriend hoax, “people now think the sob story is fake,” the source concluded.

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