According to anonymous sources, there is a mountain of evidence that proves the story of the three-year-old girl who was asked to leave a KFC because of her scars is a hoax.
It was a story with all the perfect viral elements—an innocent young child (with a horrible injury), a shockingly rude statement/demand and of course a villainous, big corporation. Oh yeah, and it took place in the South, which is always a slam dunk for viral outrage.
According to Kelly Mullins, when she and her granddaughter Victoria Wilcher sat down to eat their meal at a KFC in Mississippi, they were told they had to leave because of her scars (the result of a dog attack). The story, which led to appearances on national talk shows, more than $135,000 in donations to the family as well as a firestorm of outrage directed at KFC was a massive viral phenomenon. Victoria Wilcher's horrifying story seemed like just the kind of thing you want to post on your Facebook or Twitter page in absolute disgust. Of course shitty KFC with their shitty food is being shitty to this poor little girl, ugh!
In the wake of the story, a third-party mediator was brought in to investigate the claim. According to an article published on Monday, many aspects of the family's story cannot be corroborated. In an article titled "Kentucky Fried Hoax," the Laurel Leader-Call cites sources "with deep knowledge of the investigation [who] spoke on the condition of strict anonymity because they were not permitted to speak on the record."
Here are just a few of the discrepancies the Leader-Call's sources detailed about the story:
• Kelly Mullins, the child's grandmother who was reportedly with her at the store, told KFC that the incident happened on May 15. A Facebook post attributed to Victoria's Victories, a support site for young Victoria Wilcher who was mauled by three of her grandfather's pit bulls, has the two in Jackson on May 15 having gone to Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital. There are two KFC locations close to the hospital — on Woodrow Wilson Drive and Meadowbrook Drive.
On May 16, Victoria's Victories wrote: "We had a small adventure yesterday, Victoria pulled her feeding tube out but thanks to the great people at Batson Children's Hospital she is home today waiting for her new sister! Mom & Baby Abby come home today too!!"
• The source said surveillance videos show that at no time on the 15th were any children in the store who match the description of Victoria Wilcher or Mullins. The tapes were viewed in both the Meadowbrook and Woodrow Wilson KFC locations in Jackson, the source said. In hours of tape, the source said one small boy with his parents is seen, but they order food and leave the store.
• The family initially told KFC the incident happened at the location on State and High streets, a claim backed by a Facebook post by Victoria's Victories, a page run by Teri Rials Bates, the girl's aunt that read: "Thank you for your support for Victoria. If you would like to file a complaint its the KFC on State Street in Jackson MS." That store is not in operation and has been closed for several years.Victoria's Victories changed its story Friday, saying the State Street reference was a mistake. In it, Bates wrote. "Im the Aunt, I run her page and Im the one that miss quoted that it was State street when it was actually Woodrow Wilson. Dont blame the grandmother for my mistake! The source said it was no mistake at all."It just didn't happen," the source said.
• The source said no orders were recorded to include mashed potatoes and sweet tea on the same transaction, or even the two items as part of a larger order on May 15. Mullins told WAPT TV in Jackson shortly after the incident went viral on social media June 12 that: "I ordered a sweet tea and mashed potatoes and gravy. I sat down at the table and started feeding her and the lady came over and said that we would have to leave, because we were disturbing other customers, that Victoria's face was disturbing other customers."
Since the story went viral, the family managed to raise $135,000 in donations for the girl's medical care, which they expressed having difficulties with months before the KFC story broke.
The incident garnered near instant national and international attention and became an economic windfall for a family who was openly concerned via social media of their fight with an unidentified insurance company and their financial struggles with paying for Victoria's medical bills. There was no mention of what insurance carrier the family had....More than $135,000 has been raised through the online donation site, gofundme.com, since June 13. The fund was created by [Teri Rials Bates, the little girl's aunt] on April 28. The funding before the chicken caper came from seven donors for a total of $595.
The implication here is the family may have staged this drama (or perhaps exaggerated the situation) to garner sympathy and raise money. If this is a huge hoax/scam, then the family isn't going to find a lot of sympathy for being the target of this kind of backlash. However, if they did this because they legitimately couldn't fund their daughter's medical care, that's depressing on a whole other level.
As for their part, so far the family is standing behind the claim. Late Monday night, Victoria's Victories (also run by Bates) added this post to their Facebook page:
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.
No one from KFC will officially comment on the story because the investigation by the mediator is still ongoing. However, it seems pretty obvious that at least one of the anonymous sources quoted by the Leader-Call either works for the franchise cited in the story or for KFC headquarters. ("We have never ever ever run off anyone, and we have seen some really really sick people come to the restaurant from the hospital," the source said. "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.") If we're going to scrutinize the little girl's family over their motivations, we probably should also scrutinize people coming forward to discredit them. Although they do seem to have a shitload of evidence on their side so far.
Seriously though—is there any way this story turns out where's it's not completely awful, period? Either a little girl was asked by jerks to leave a restaurant because her scars were ugly or the family of a girl suffering from serious medical trauma is manipulating a trusting and generous public to get money and fame. There is no good outcome to this story.
Humanity. Get your shit together.
Image via Victoria's Victories Facebook.