The story of Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te'o, and the hoax he reportedly perpetuated, has captivated both sports-lovers and novices alike. In short, Te'o had started an online relationship with a woman who used the phony name Lennay Kekua, and fooled the athlete into believing she died of leukemia in September. Te'o was vocal about Kekua's battle, further endearing him to the Football nation.
But on Wednesday, Te'o's story was exposed as a lie in the press, one month after he reportedly learned of the hoax himself. The rub is that, despite learning that Kekua was a fraud on December 6, he continued to talk about her battle with leukemia in interviews on December 8 and again in a newspaper interview published Dec. 10, according to The Huffington Post.
Putting aside Te'o's potential perpetuation of this hoax for personal gain (some have posited he did so to further endear himself to Heisman Trophy judges), this phenomenon is not only becoming increasingly more commonplace, but it's a full-fledged TV phenomenon thanks to MTV's Catfish, based on the 2010 documentary.
Nev Schulman, the original "Catfish," Tweeted on January 16, "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." He later Tweeted at Manti, saying, "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."
Nev's brother, and Catfish co-producer, Ariel Schulman appeared on Good Morning America minutes ago and revealed that while Manti hasn't returned their interview requests, they have learned quite a bit about what happened behind the scenes.
"[Nev and Catfish co-host Max Joseph have] uncovered a few people who were duped by the fake Kekua character," Ariel told George Stephanopoulos. "It's bigger than Manti, there were other people she was corresponding with."
When asked why Te'o would carry on a relationship with someone he'd never met, Schulman explained, "I think when you want something bad enough, in his case, a connection, you'll ignore the red flags. My gut is that there's a lonely person behind it all who didn't expect it to go this far. My guess is there was no malicious intent and it was just two people looking for love."