The Right Coast

August 27, 2005
Fake But Accurate
By Gail Heriot

This is an incredible story (that I at least didn't hear about until today). For two years, readers of the University of Southern Illinois' Daily Egyptian have been riveted by a continuing series of letters from a little girl named Kodee to her father, Sgt. Dan Kennings, in Iraq. For example: "Don't die, OK dad? ... You should find Saddam and run him over with your tank ... I love you and don't die. Love, Kodee."

Readers were told that Kodee already lost her mother when she was just five years old. Her father was all she had left. So when the news came a little while ago that her father had been killed too, Carbondale residents were devastated.

Except there is no Kodee Kennings. And there is no Sgt. Dan Kennings. The whole story was a very, very elaborate hoax. Read the articles for a flavor of it.

It is not yet clear whether anyone from the Daily Egyptian was in on the ruse. The woman who actually wrote the letters (and brought in a little blonde-haired girl to the newspaper office whom she identified to the paper as Kodee) says one of the student editors (who has since graduated) was originally an accomplice in the fraud. He denies it. The rest of the folks at the paper were dupes.

Evidently, the Chicago Tribune can take credit for unravelling the story. The aspiring journalists who worked at the Daily Egyptian had best send their resumes elsewhere. (Hat tip to Chicago Boyz.)