Victoria Wilcher pictured in a Facebook post. Photo: Facebook.
KFC is close to discovering whether a Mississippi girl who was disfigured in a pit bull attack was asked to leave a Mississippifranchise, or whether her family's highly publicized claim was a hoax.
Regardless of the outcome, the fried chicken chain plans to donate $30,000 toward the 3-year-old's medical care, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.
The family of Victoria Wilcher said she visited a KFC outlet in Jackson, Mississippi, with her grandmother in May and staff told them her appearance was scaring other costumers.
In a news report headlined "Kentucky Fried Hoax," an unidentified source cited by the Laurel Leader-Call newspaper in Mississippi disputed the family's claim on Monday. The person said the child and her grandmother could not be seen on surveillance videos from two KFC locations and records showed no orders matching the food the grandmother said she ordered.
KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said the franchise had hired a consultant to investigate the Wilcher case after being unable to verify it, and the company was awaiting the results.
"We have taken this report very seriously from the beginning," Maynard said.
He said KFC would donate the pledged money toward the girl's medical expenses no matter what the investigation shows.
Wilcher was attacked by three of her grandfather's pit bulls in April.
The family has received offers for free surgeries for Victoria and more than $135,000 in donations as word of the KFC incident spread; there is no word on how that money has been spent.
A message posted Tuesday on a Facebook page run by Victoria's aunt said the newspaper got the story wrong, though the page has since been deleted.
"I promise its not a hoax," the message said. "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."
The family received an outpouring of support on social media after the story broke last month, but since Monday's hoax report, public opinion has dramatically shifted from sympathy to anger.
"So trashy. You have tarnished a little girls name out of greed. She was getting help before and was going to continue to get help. Now Google searches for her name will pull up this horribly greedy story. Smh," wrote Facebook user Crissa Owen.
Angelina Kuhn also weighed in, saying, "Shame on u and teaching a lil innocent child to think doing this is ok."
Reuters contributed to this report.
Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan