The family of a three-year-old girl, whose story of being asked to leave a KFC because the youngster’s facial scars were “scaring customers” went viral, are facing down claims that the entire thing was an elaborate hoax.
Victoria Wilcher’s family had complained of the harsh treatment via a 12 June post on a Facebook page which had been set up to provide medical updates for the toddler. Victoria had suffered a vicious pitbull attack in April.
Following an outpouring of shock, support to the family and admonition towards KFC, the fast food giant said an investigation would get underway, while also pledging $30,000 (£17,600) to assist with the girl’s medical bills.
A further $135,600 (£80,000) has been donated to crowdfunding website GoFundMe from wellwishers around the globe, heartened by her story.
However, a source supposedly close to the situation, who has spoken on the condition of anonymity, told the Laurel Leader-Call, that CCTV footage from the day the incident was supposed to have happened – 15 May – does not show any children in store matching Victoria’s description.
The source also claimed that the food order of mashed potato and sweet tea, which Victoria’s grandmother claims to have made that day, was not in the store’s system.
They also said that unwell or disfigured customers go to that KFC, in Jackson, Mississippi, fairly regularly with no trouble at all.
“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 told the newspaper. “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 [a nearby] location and one of the other [KFC] managers has a child with Tourette’s syndrome.”
The Victoria’s Victories Facebook page, which is run by the youngster’s aunt, Teri Rials Bates, had also initially stated that the incident happened in a different KFC branch, which had been shut down for several years. The family later corrected the location.
The viral post, which asked: “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.”
It led to the family being inundated with gifts and offers of free surgery, as well as media attention from around the world.
The family have since rejected the claims that it is a hoax and have appealed for people to withhold their judgements until the KFC investigation is finalised later this week.
“I promise it’s not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has,” the post begins.
“The article circling the web calling this a hoax is untrue. The article itself says 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, an 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.”
According to Dick West, the president of a firm that runs one of the largest franchisees in the KFC chain, the company has pledged the funds whether it transpires that the incident was real or not.