Will Manti Te’o hoax become an episode of Catfish?

Whether or not the rest of us believe that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was truly duped by a guy claiming to be a ill-fated woman who stole his heart, the Heisman-trophy finalist’s got one important ally. Nev Schulman, star of the hit 2010 documentary Catfish and the current MTV show of the same name, has reached out to Te’o offering to help get to the bottom of the apparent hoax.

Schulman himself had once been fooled by a troubled Michigan mom posing as a luscious young woman who formed an online love affair with Schulman, but avoided meeting him in person. When he decided to take matters into his own hands and set out in pursuit of his love, Schulman’s brother Ariel and their pal Henry Joost captured the adventure — and the surprising outcome — on film, and Catfish was born.

Almost immediately, Schulman was inundated with calls and emails from others who were suspect of their own cyber love affairs and his hit TV series, which premiered in November, took shape.

Now Schulman’s stepping up for the man who could be the most high-profile victim of “catfishing” to date, via news outlets and Twitter.

“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 of Donna Tei, the woman whose photo was reportedly used by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who posed as “Lennay Kekua,” a beautiful Stanford student who whispered her final words to Te’o before dying of car-crash injuries and leukemia mere hours after his grandmother passed away, too. The dual tragedy captured America’s attention, but no one appeared to question the unlikely tale until Deadspin.com revealed it as a hoax yesterday.

“.@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 in the wake of the new information.

Asked by MTV News to comment on the unfolding story, Schulman said famous or otherwise, that in this era of effortless online intimacy, it’s easier than we think to be duped.

“It doesn’t really change anything for me that this victim is a high-profile football player,” he said.  “I think it can and obviously does happen to anyone. … Of course, when you read an article all at once where it reveals all these stories and all these details, it seems crazy, but in the process of it, as it happens very slowly, things don’t seem so crazy. And then, of course, when you look at it all in one snapshot, it does sort of seem kind of unbelievable.”

Whether the Te-o tale becomes a future episode of Catfish remains to be seen. As of Thursday afternoon, he had not replied to Schulman via Twitter. But fans of the show can’t help but believe he’s got the right guy on the job.

Video: ABC News
Photo: MTV

About Lori Acken

Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.
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