Nev Schulman, host of MTV’s “Catfish,” presents himself on the show and on social media as a thoughtful, sensitive guy. But that image might be a catfish of its own: Schulman revealed that he is guilty of punching a woman in the face in college – though he claims he didn’t know she was a woman.
In his new book, “In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age,” Schulman recounts an incident that got him “tossed out” of Sarah Lawrence College in 2006. According to his account, he was at the school’s annual Sleaze Ball, “a night of debauchery, drugs and girls dressed primarily in lingerie.” As he was snapping pictures, he claims that a person tackled him and smashed his camera to the ground because the person didn't want to be photographed. The camera strap was attached to his neck, he claims, so he was choked by it as he fell. To free himself, he punched the person and ran off. Later, he found out the person he punched was a woman, who was “short, stocky, crew-cut-styled.”
The woman who says she was punched, and who wanted to remain anonymous, recounted the events of the evening to Vulture much differently. Her account was corroborated by others.
According to the woman, that night Schulman had been taking pictures of “queer couples dancing and kissing, without their permission.” When she told him to stop, he didn’t, and in fact punched her out of nowhere. She claims she had merely tapped him on the shoulder; she didn’t tackle him or choke him as he claimed in the book. She said he kept punching her as she tried to break free, breaking her glasses, leaving bruises and cuts in pictures she posted the next day on Facebook.
The woman talked to police, went to the hospital the next day, and finally went to legal services. She decided not to press charges, she says, because she felt it would be difficult to win. His lawyer, she says, was waiting for her in the parking lot after her visit to legal services. Worried that Nev’s family had the means to drag her through court, she didn’t pursue charges or a lawsuit. “As an LGBT financial aid student,” she is quoted as saying, “I didn’t think the chance of getting justice looked good.”
On MTV’s “Catfish,” Nev Schulman introduces couples in real life who have fallen for each other on the Internet but haven’t yet taken the relationship offline – often (but not always) because one or both people are misrepresenting themselves. The show is a spinoff of a pseudo-documentary Schulman made in 2010 called “Catfish,” which introduced the world to a term now defined by Urban Dictionary as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”
It’s unclear whether MTV knew about the incident before it hired Schulman for “Catfish” or whether it will keep him on the show now that the cat’s out of the bag. At least one person who crossed paths with Schulman before his “Catfish” days was not impressed. Ken Schneck, a former Sarah Lawrence assistant dean of student affairs who corroborated the incident took place but was unable to say much else, told Vulture, “All I can say on the record, as the former Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, is that he was a condescending, entitled, reprehensible tool. :)"