Citizens of the interwebs gasped in collective outrage over the story of a girl who had allegedly been asked to leave a Jacksonville KFC because of her facial deformity. A new report in The Laurel Leader-Call
say the story was a hoax.
An attack by her grandfather's three pit bulls left Victoria Wilcher, 3, with severe facial disfiguration. The girl's grandmother Kelly Mullins told WAPT-TV
that her granddaughter was kicked out of a KFC restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi “because her face scared the other diners.” She added that the incident has left her self-conscious and afraid to look in the mirror.
The story soon went viral. KFC issued an apology and stepped up with a $30,000 donation towards the girl's surgery. A sympathetic public pitched in an additional $135,000 through a crowd funding site, gofundme.com.
In addition to the funds, a Las Vegas surgeon offered Victoria's family free plastic surgery
and the Frank L. Stiles Foundation pledged to cover all the costs of reconstructing Victoria's face.
But sources who claim they have "deep knowledge" of an investigation being conducted by the fast food chain found holes in Mullins' story. The anonymous source told The Laurel Leader-Call that surveillance video did not pick up on customers matching their descriptions on the day specified, nor did any orders in the register match what Mullins said she ordered.
Despite these allegations, the Facebook page Victoria's Victories (which is no longer active), meanwhile, vehemently denies the hoax. "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."
KFC says they will honour their donation to Victoria, even if their investigators determine the story was fake.
Platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter work because we can act immediately on our rush of compassion or inspiration (the impulse that would be lost by the time we found our chequebook and a stamp). Let's hope that scandals like this one don't wreck the potential for these sites to channel our empathy into real change.