Last May, Ayissha Morgan published a series of videos about her experience appearing on the reality-television series Catfish. Morgan, who appeared on the MTV show in 2015, alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault. In a series of conversations with The Daily Beast, Morgan shared her experience coming forward, only to have her allegations deemed “not credible” by investigators that she insisted she never spoke with.
“I’m getting death threats because people think I lied,” Morgan said, “when you just wanted to tell people that I wasn’t credible to save your show.”
It isn’t completely unprecedented to conduct an investigation without input from an accuser. In July, AMC announced that it had cleared Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick to return to the network following allegations of emotional and sexual abuse. According to a network statement, the decision to have Hardwick return to AMC was the result of a “comprehensive assessment.” In a social-media statement, Hardwick’s accuser, actress Chloe Dykstra, revealed that she “chose not to participate in the investigation.”
“I could have provided more details, but chose not to,” Dykstra wrote.
On May 25, Ayissha Morgan filed two police reports “for what happened during my participation on the show.” The Houston Police Department confirmed with The Daily Beast that there is still an open investigation into the allegations.
In Morgan’s first video, titled “The TRUTH about the show,” she alleged that “the main guy on the show,” whom she refers to by the pseudonym “Jack,” sexually harassed her. Jack was quickly assumed to be Catfish host and executive producer Nev Schulman. Morgan described a pattern of harassment that included excessive compliments and unprofessional come-ons. “On every break from filming, every time they said ‘cut’ [he’s] like, ‘Oh, when can I take you on a date?’”
Morgan told her YouTube followers that Jack questioned her sexuality, repeatedly asking her, “‘Are you a lesbian or are you bisexual?’ I was like, ‘I’m a lesbian for the 50th fucking time!’”
At the airport before flying to film in Houston, Morgan said Jack kept her company. “This is where things passed that line,” she narrated in the video. “Out of the blue he goes, ‘So I don’t think you’re a lesbian, I just feel like you haven’t met the right guy yet. Do you think I’m attractive?’” According to Morgan, he suggested she “re-evaluate” her sexual preference by sleeping with him, bragging about the size of his penis.
Once they got to the hotel, Morgan recalled, Jack tried to invite himself to sleep in her room and later asked her if she wanted to cuddle. She said she remembered thinking, “You just aren’t going to stop.”
In her second video, Morgan discussed a production assistant with the pseudonym “Carol.” After an emotionally draining day of filming, Carol allegedly showed up to Morgan’s hotel room with beers, at one point challenging her to a chugging contest. “The last thing I remember is the drunk just hitting me like a ton of rocks,” Morgan said, adding that she was drifting in and out of consciousness. “I woke up and she was on top of me.” The next morning, she continued in the video, “I was pretty much the laughingstock.”
Following the incident with Carol, she found herself alone with Jack again, and the alleged harassment continued. “I made a joke basically and said, ‘You should hire me as your female co-host,’ and he goes, ‘Oh is that something you’d want to do? What are you willing to do for it?’”
“He comes over and sits on the bed, and he goes, ‘I heard what happened with you and Carol last night,’ and he was like, ‘What did you guys do? I want details,’” she recalled in the second video. “He was like, ‘Well, how about you do what you did to Carol but on me?’ And he laid on the bed and he grabbed my arm. He didn’t yank my arm, he just grabbed it.” Morgan got up and left, she said, concluding her two-part video testimony.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Schulman has a history of assault. In his memoir, In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age, he wrote about punching a “person” while attending Sarah Lawrence College, only to learn that the “individual that I’d fought with was a woman.” The woman Schulman assaulted told Vulture that Schulman “repeatedly punched [her],” saying, “Schulman’s account of the events of that night is as suspect as all his other endeavors.”
Responding to Morgan’s videos, an MTV spokesperson told Page Six, “We take these allegations very seriously. We’re working with Critical Content, our third party production company, to conduct a thorough investigation and we’ve put a pause on shooting until the investigation is completed.”
In a statement, Schulman denied the accusations, saying, “The behavior described in this video did not happen and I’m fortunate that there are a number of former colleagues who were present during this time period who are willing to speak up with the truth. I have always been transparent about my life and would always take responsibility for my actions—but these claims are false.”
During a recent podcast appearance, Schulman complained that the stress of weathering sexual-harassment allegations had led to shingles and “really bad” headaches. “Looking back, do I think there was a slightly less aggressive version that could’ve been taken? Sure,” he reflected on the network’s decision to halt production and launch an investigation. “But there’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Hey, this is a serious thing. If this happened, we need to find out and that’s what we’re going to do.’”
MTV and Critical Content would later claim to have “immediately engaged an independent third party investigator” to look into the allegations. One month after halting production, an MTV spokesperson announced that Catfish had resumed filming, and that, “The independent investigator found the allegations made in the YouTube videos to be not credible and without merit.”
An MTV spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “Multiple attempts were made to interview the claimant during the course of the investigation, and in those attempts, she was given the name, phone number and email address of the lead third-party investigator for the firm that conducted the investigation.”
Morgan didn’t expect her videos to blow up like they did. Within “48 hours,” views skyrocketed, and she says she was contacted by “other women who were attempting to come forward.” Morgan told The Daily Beast that these women also alleged sexual harassment by Schulman on the Catfish set. Explaining her motivation for the initial videos, and for continuing to speak out, she said, “I want myself to have a voice, and I want everyone that it’s happened to to have a voice.” Morgan recalled her first meeting with her lawyer, when he asked her what her “mission” was. “And I said: I just don’t want this to happen again.”
“And with the show back on the air, that’s what’s going to happen,” she continued. “They’re just going to cover their tracks better.”
After Morgan’s videos went viral, her lawyer advised her not to talk “until we had all of our eggs in one basket and until we knew what was going on with the investigation. And we got the rug ripped out from under us because before we even had all of our stuff together, you know, they had already made their decision, and it just didn’t feel fair.”
Morgan recalled at least three attempts to reach out to her, but said: “No one from Critical Content ever reached out to me. It was solely them sending contact information through one of my producers from the show. It was all through a guy named John Maroney, who is one of the producers on Catfish.” The Daily Beast reviewed a Facebook message from Maroney to Morgan, in which he asks her to give him a call “as soon as you have a moment,” and a follow-up message in which he forwarded the independent investigator’s contact information and told Morgan to contact them.
“Even though I wasn’t replying, I was looking at all of my messages just to see who was going to reach out and you know, it was never Critical Content themselves,” Morgan recalled. She said she was surprised by this approach, pointing out, “They have my email, they have all of these things from when I was on the show.”
Morgan told The Daily Beast that she had every intention of working with investigators once she got the legal go-ahead, and that she was never informed that Schulman was about to be cleared and that production would be resuming imminently. “Had that happened I would have, you know, disregarded anything my lawyer said and I would have spoken out out of fear that they were going to resume. But they never made anything clear, they never said anything.” She insisted that she was not contacted by a law firm or any other independent third-party investigator. “My lawyer wasn’t even contacted by anyone’s lawyer.”
“Nobody talked to me. At all.” So Morgan was shocked to hear that Catfish was filming again. “I said, this is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. I understand, how long did you expect them to wait before they felt like, OK, we’re just resuming production because we can’t even speak to the girl. But I still feel like they didn’t wait long enough. And I went into this spiral of depression. I felt like I not only let myself down, but I let down all of the other women who came to me that were too afraid to build a case of their own.”
“I mean, I wouldn’t have been surprised had they resumed production while they continued to investigate, that would have been fine for me,” she said. “But the issue is the fact that this is an extremely serious matter, and you guys haven’t spoken to me, not one word.”
A source close to production told The Daily Beast that, “If [Morgan] decides she wants to participate, they would of course have the investigator meet with her.”
Morgan took further issue with MTV’s insistence that the allegations were “not credible,” asking, “How am I not credible? If you’ve never spoken to me, then you’re basing your decisions off of videos that were created in story-time format that I put out for an audience of 400 people. That makes no sense.”
By saying that her allegations weren’t credible, Morgan reasons, MTV’s spokesperson essentially called her a liar. None of the statements released to the press detailed exactly what the Schulman investigation consisted of, so how were people supposed to know that Morgan didn’t even participate?
The Catfish production source told The Daily Beast that, “The investigator looked into [Morgan’s] allegations made in the YouTube videos, including those about the female PA. They interviewed several witnesses and reviewed hours of raw footage covering many of the dates, times, and situations referenced in her YouTube videos.”
Morgan has a collection of screenshots, photos, and text messages that she wishes she could have shared with the investigators. “In his statement [Schulman] says he has staff to back him up,” Morgan said. “I have people on his staff that are saying, yeah, he’s done this before. He’s been creepy, he’s done this numerous times. So whoever you have to back you up is lying!”
She further claims that she made multiple attempts to “try and tell them what happened in private so that it wouldn’t go public.” The Daily Beast reviewed an April 2017 exchange between Morgan and a Catfish producer. In the exchange, Morgan detailed the sexual harassment and assault she allegedly experienced while filming and further insisted that multiple crew members on the ground knew, saying, “I told everyone everything and no one cared enough to help.”