By now, you have probably read about the angelic 3-year-old who was ejected from a KFC because her scars from a pit bull attack frightened customers. The tale, accompanied by the de rigueur photo shown at the left, was picked up by virtually every news site and blog. LU is no exception.
I recall when I first saw this story on Huffington Post feeling vaguely uneasy about it. Make no mistake: The restaurant’s behavior seemed to be an abomination. The source of my discomfort rather was an update noting that KFC was donating the sum of $30,000 toward the little girl’s medical bills. In fact, a Facebook page titled Victoria’s Victories (the child’s name is Victoria Wilcher) had been created so that sympathetic readers could open not only their hearts to the child’s plight but their wallets.
Today, my worst fears appear to have been confirmed. The Laurel (Mississippi) Leader-Call reported:
The jig is up.
The heart-wrenching story of a badly disfigured 3-year-old child being asked to leave a Jackson KFC because her appearance was scaring other customers was a story generated out of whole cloth and resulted in the family bilking the public and professionals for more than $135,000 in cash, as well as gifts and free surgeries, sources with deep knowledge of the investigation said exclusively to the Laurel Leader-Call.
The sources spoke on the condition of strict anonymity because they were not permitted to speak on the record.
A third-party mediator has been brought in on the case and he has been investigating the claims. No one with KFC, including Jackson franchise owner Kirk Hannon, would comment on the investigation until it is completed but they did release the following statement on Friday.
In support of its claim of fraud, the article’s author, Sean Murphy, quotes a source “with deep knowledge of the investigation” as saying:
Surveillance videos show that at no time on the 15th were any children in the store who match the description of Victoria Wilcher or [her grandmother, Kelly] Mullins. The tapes were viewed in both the Meadowbrook and Woodrow Wilson KFC locations in Jackson, ... In hours of tape, … one small boy with his parents is seen, but they order food and leave the store.
A spokesman for the one of the KFC stores where the incident is alleged to have happened said in a statement:
We have never ever ever run off anyone, and we have seen some really really sick people come to the restaurant from the [nearby children’s] hospital. We've had people come in who were shot in the face. We've had them with tubes and wire sticking out. We never have asked anyone to leave.
Fifteen hours ago, a post was appended to the Victoria's Victories Facebook page reading:
I promise its [sic] not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has. The article circling the web calling this a hoax is untrue. The article it self [sic] say [sic] the investigation is not complete. It is not over until KFC releases a statement. The media outlet running this story is not connected with KFC. The family has not asked for anything, a attorney [sic] is handling all the media publicity for the family pro bono. Please do not believe untrue media. I have personally watched this family go without to provide for Victoria. They have not and would not do anything to hurt Victoria in any way.
Atrocious grammar aside, I will not pass judgment on either the administrators of the Facebook page — who appear to be outside the family — or the family itself. As the Victoria's Victories writer observes, “the investigation is not complete.” Admittedly, the outcome is not looking bright for the family.
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