hoax  hōks/noun
a humorous or malicious deception.
synonyms: practical joke, joke, jest, prank, trick

How many of you remember the story of the disfigured 3-year old little girl who was reportedly asked to leave a Kentucky KFC because her appearance was negatively affecting other customers while they ate? Yeah, that was a hoax.

As reported by The Washington Post, "Report: Viral story of disfigured girl kicked out of KFC was hoax": http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/...

Now, I’ve read a number of articles concerning this story, but the particulars are still a little fuzzy so I’m going to give you the general gist. The hoax originated with a Facebook post. In April of 2014, 3-year old Victoria Wilcher was mauled by three of her grandfather's pit bulls. The incident left her face sacred and disfigured. She also lost her left eye which remains covered with an eye patch. She was hospitalized for a short time after the incident and released in mid-May. On the way home from the hospital, she and her grandmother decided to stop at a KFC because Victoria was hungry. According to the grandmother, they were reportedly asked to leave the KFC after sitting down to dine because Victoria's appearance was disturbing other customers. In June of 2014, a post was posted on Facebook detailing the incident. The post was made on a Facebook page that had been created as a support site for Victoria and her condition. The original post declared that the incident had taken place at a KFC that had been closed for years, but that statement was later retracted as an error on the part of the poster who was not part of the apparent incident but a third party simply reiterating the story. The post immediately went viral. It garnered national and international attention. CNN, The Huffington Post and even "The Today Show" picked up the story and all harshly criticized KFC and YUM! Brands for their apparent abhorrent behavior. Donations poured in and doctors from all over the world offered Victoria their surgical assistance. Even KFC donated a large sum of money for Victoria's recovery. What's wrong with this story? It never happened. The story was a complete hoax.  

The grand mother's motive is still unclear and as far as I can tell, she is sticking to her story. The name of the insurance company responsible for Victoria's medical bills has never been disclosed, as far as I know, but several remarks were made on Facebook detailing the family's financial difficulties covering the cost of Victoria's medical bills. The Facebook page has since been removed, but one can only speculate that this was the grandmother's motive for fabricating the story.

The hoax used an innocent child to play on the vulnerabilities of society. At one point, a post was placed on Facebook with side-by-side before and after photos of Victoria asking if this looked like a "scary" face. As if that wasn't meant to pull on the heartstrings of America.

After the initial post, several KFC employees received death threats. KFC spent hours reviewing surveillance video of the day of the alleged incident and their is no evidence that Victoria and her grandmother ever even entered the KFC in question. None of the registers even reported selling, in a single sale, the items that Victoria's grandmother claimed she purchased. KFC even hired outside investigators to investigate the situation. The external investigators were unable to turn up any evidence that collaborated the grandmother's story either.

This particular KFC is reportedly only blocks away from the hospital where Victoria was treated. According to a KFC spokesperson, they receive a significant amount of traffic from patients leaving the hospital and not one of them has ever been turned away.

The family has since received over $135,000 in donations from those touched by Victoria's story. Even though KFC's investigation found no wrong doing on their part they insisted that their $30,000 donation go to Victoria's recovery. In the end, KFC came out looking pretty good.

Victoria's injuries are clearly severe and what happened to her is tragic, but to exploit that tragedy is horrific. If more individuals took the time to assess what is they are reading/viewing and where it came from, then hoaxes like this would not be so rampant. Until they do, individuals will continue to profit from society's naiveté.

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