The Washington Post

Report: Viral story of disfigured girl kicked out of KFC was hoax

UPDATE: KFC confirms hoax. Here’s the latest details

You may remember seeing pictures of Victoria Wilcher, the 3-year-old attacked by her family’s three pit bulls who was supposedly asked on May 15 to leave a KFC in Jackson, Miss., because her facial scars were too disturbing. The Internet loved the story of a disfigured little girl bullied by a multinational food conglomerate.

But the Laurel Leader-Call in Mississippi is calling it a fundraising hoax — specifically, a “Kentucky Fried Hoax.”

Several anonymous sources told the paper’s Sean Murphy that the story told by the girl’s grandmother to a local TV station about the incident doesn’t match the facts.

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The family recounted the story on the Victoria’s Victories Facebook page, which documents the child’s recovery from an April pit bull attack that left half her face paralyzed and caused her to lose an eye. They originally said the child and her grandmother were asked to leave a KFC that turned out to have been closed for years. Victoria’s aunt Teri Rials Bates, who maintains the page, later said it happened at another location on Woodrow Wilson Drive near the Jackson hospital where Victoria went for treatment.

Security camera footage from that KFC and another near the hospital does not show children matching Victoria’s description going into either restaurant on May 15, according to sources interviewed by the Leader-Call. Nor did any orders taken that day include both sweet tea and mashed potatoes – what Mullins claimed she ordered for her granddaughter.

The source also said that many customers from the nearby hospital suffering various ailments had eaten at the KFC — and none had ever been asked to leave.

“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. There is a physically challenged person working in the Woodrow Wilson location and one of the other [KFC] managers has a child with Tourette’s Syndrome,” the source said.

People touched by Victoria’s story have reportedly sent in more than $135,000 in donations as surgeons offered their services for free.

On Monday, the family stuck to its story on Facebook.

I promise its 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 say 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 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.

The family’s attorney, Bill Kellum, told the Leader-Call he would not comment until the investigation is complete. The findings are expected this week. He also said the family had not decided whether to accept a $30,000 donation from KFC.

In a statement reported by a local news station on Friday, KFC said it had not been able to verify the incident and had hired a third-party consultant to look into the allegations. The fast-food restaurant had already committed $30,000 to help pay Wilcher’s medical bills; a spokesman told the AP they would pay regardless of what the investigation into the incident found.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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