Earlier this month, the story of a little girl’s experience at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) went viral. According to reports, three-year Victoria Welcher, who had been disfigured in a pit-bull attack, was kicked out of a Mississippi KFC restaurant because her face was making the other diners uncomfortable.
Victoria’s family posted a photo of the child on Facebook with the caption, “Does this face look scary to you? Last week at KFC in Jackson MS this precious face was asked to leave because her face scared the other diners. I personally will never step foot in another KFC again and will be personally writing the CEO.” According to the grandmother accompanying Victoria: “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.”
Many media outlets carried the story, and nearly all reported it as if it were fact — no “allegedly”, no “reportedly”; the family’s story was simply taken as fact and reported as such.
As reporter Sean Murphy notes:
National and world media such as CNN, Nancy Grace, Huffington Post and The Today Show jumped on the story, lambasting the employees, KFC and YUM! Brands, KFC’s corporate owners.
“What, did they walk over to the table and say ‘hey, you’re ugly, you have to leave.’ What happened Dave?” wailed Grace, the HLN hysterical talk show host, which was answered by little-known talk radio host Dave Maxson.
“No, Nancy, it was even worse than that. It wasn’t ‘you’re ugly.’ It was ‘you are scaring people. You must leave.’”
Now, anyone with an IQ in the triple digits would know something was fishy here. First, if you’ve ever dined at a KFC, you know the employees don’t care much what you do after handing you your food. They’re certainly not looking at you once you’ve sat down — nor are other diners — and, should a crusty, cantankerous jerk be offended by the physical appearance of another person, the manager might stop long enough to listen, roll his eyes, ignore the fool, and continue tending to the biscuits. The idea that any diner complained, and that an employee would walk over and ask a little girl to leave due to her scarred face, is hard to believe both because it’s far too much effort for any fast-food employee and because it would require a truly evil, sick individual.
We have also seen several cases of such complaints turning out to be false after the hoaxer got a financial windfall.
As if on cue, as soon as the story broke, donations poured in from the gullible, to the tune of $135,000, thanks to a Facebook and Go Fund Me page, in addition to gifts and offers of free surgeries. KFC, facing a public relations nightmare, pledged to donate $30,000 to Victoria.
Surprise, surprise: It seems to be a hoax. KFC diligently investigated and found absolutely no footage of the girl and her grandmother at a local store, nor any order for the items the grandmother claimed to have purchased. In fact, on the day in question, Victoria and her grandmother were elsewhere, according to the grandmother’s Facebook timeline. The grandmother also claimed it happened at a KFC restaurant which — as it turns out — has been closed for three years. The family then tried to change its story and claim the incident occurred at a different KFC restaurant. And there are even more discrepancies, all detailed in a news story in the Laurel Leader Call. Many of those who donated are now hoping Go Fund Me will refund their donations.
While we empathize with Victoria, there are many families with equally tragic stories who are in need of additional funding or even, unlike Victoria, lack health insurance. They do not, however, resort to lies, trickery, and disturbingly elaborate falsehoods in order to scheme others out of their cash. A con man’s motives matter not — only the con.