- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Kodee Kennings' story was pure gold. For nearly two years, the motherless 8-year-old spoke and wrote movingly of her struggle to deal with her soldier father being shipped off to fight in
Iraq, and Southern Illinois University's student newspaper chronicled her thoughts in its pages.
But there was no Kodee Kennings, and the elaborate hoax exposed Friday left The Daily Egyptian embarrassed.
A 2004 SIU graduate who posed as Kodee's guardian says she and a former Daily Egyptian editor concocted the story to help his career. He denies that and says he was duped, too.
A 10-year-old girl who posed as Kodee in public appearances and a man who pretended to be her father say they were unwitting participants in the scam and believed they were acting in a film.
"As long as people dig those sentimental stories and have that yellow-ribbon mentality, there are going to be these hoaxes," she said.
The tale began with a news story written by journalism student Michael Brenner. The article, which appeared on May 6, 2003, described the emotional parting of Kodee and her father, Sgt. Dan Kennings, as he left Fort Campbell, Ky., for Iraq.
"Please don't leave," Kodee begged in the story. "I'll be good if you stay. I won't get in trouble."
The newspaper later published letters and columns from Kodee about the difficulty of being apart from her father.
"Daddy I love you," Kodee wrote in a letter to her father. "Can you kill all the bad guys now so Air Force One can bring you home?"