A viral story about a black sixth-grader in Virginia having her dreadlocks forcibly cut by white classmates turned out to be a hoax — and the reporter who broke the story had some ties to the supposed victim that may have influenced the reporting.
Late last month, Amari Allen accused three white students at Immanuel Christian School in Fairfax, Virginia of pinning her down and cutting her dreadlocks while insulting her. The story gained national media attention, partly due to its characterization as a racist hate crime and partly because it occurred at the school where second lady Karen Pence teaches.
Allen admitted earlier this week that she fabricated the whole story and that she had cut her own hair. Her grandparents apologized to the school and the students.
One of the reporters who broke the story, WUSA-TV's Mikea Turner, has some connections to the story that may have made her more likely to uncritically report the allegation, The Daily Caller reported.
The same day Allen reported the incident to her family, Turner was tweeting in support of a bill that would criminalize discrimination on the basis of hairstyle, known as the "Crown Act."
After the story was reported, Turner then used Allen's situation as a way to support the need for hair discrimination laws.
"This why we need the #CrownAct to protect little girls like Amari Allen," Turner wrote the next day.
Turner also had some previous connection to a cosmetics business run by Allen's grandparents and aunt called Still Natural. Turner featured the business in a September 2018 news segment, and that pre-existing relationship was not disclosed in the numerous stories Turner did for WUSA about the hoax assault.
WUSA has deleted all articles reporting the made-up attack, and redirected the links to a story about the incident being false. The news organization removed Allen's and her family's names from the story, citing "the girl's age and the circumstances." Allen's identity was widely disseminated through her various media appearances.