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'First-generation, low income' Rhodes Scholar busted for lying about privileged background — and loses her scholarship: Report

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She grew up with a doctor mom in a $750,000 home while attending a $30,000/year private school

Image source: New York Post video screenshot

A Rhodes Scholarship recipient who previously insisted that she grew up poor, abused, and underprivileged is said to have lost her scholarship after it was discovered she lied about her background.

A Wednesday report from the Daily Mail stated that 24-year-old Mackenzie Fierceton grew up in a $750,000 home in Missouri with her mother — a doctor — and attended a $30,000/year private high school.

What are the details?

Fierceton claimed in her application essay to Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania that she survived abuse and foster care and overcame adversity by putting her education at the forefront of her priorities.

In the essay, the outlet reported, Fierceton — a self-described "queer, first-generation, low income" student — claimed that her radiologist mother tried to kill her and that she eventually ended up in foster care.

According to the report, Fierceton was in foster care — but reportedly only for one year and only after she told police that her mother Carrie Morrison struck her and threw her down a flight of stairs.

Police arrested Morrison in 2014 in connection with the allegation, but she denied all culpability and said that her daughter — a "difficult" child who suffered from anxiety — was being dishonest.

The case was later dropped because prosecutors found no evidence to support Fierceton's claims.

Fierceton, who won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in 2020, previously told the Rhodes Trust that she was deserving of the scholarship because she "overcame welfare, an abusive mother, and the foster care system."

Following a complementary report about Fierceton's bravery and her Rhodes award — a story that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer — an anonymous tipster contacted the Rhodes Trust and UPenn to report her alleged dishonesty.

The anonymous tipster told the trust and the school that Fierceton — whose previous name was Mackenzie Morrison — attended a posh St. Louis private school and enjoyed white-collar hobbies including horseback riding and skydiving.

Following the allegations, Fierceton withdrew from the Rhodes program.

UPenn, according to the report, is withholding her masters' degree following an investigation into the alleged fraud — and Fierceton now says that the Rhodes Trust and UPenn are victimizing her.

A deeper look

An investigation by the Chronicle of Higher Education determined that the only truth to Fierceton's story was that she spent time in foster care.

In the 2014 incident — when Fierceton would have been approximately 16 years old — Morrison said that her daughter "asked her to pull some gum out of her hair while she was standing at the top of the staircase."

Morrison said that she made an attempt but that Fierceton jerked away and stumbled down two steps before sitting down.

In her essay, however, Fierceton told an entirely different story and said that she woke up after the "attack," drove herself to school, and collapsed in front of a teacher. She insisted that she was transported to a local hospital, where she woke up "caked in blood," her facial features "so distorted and swollen" that she couldn't tell them apart.

Braces, she insisted, stabilized "most of her body," and even tasks as simple as going to the bathroom required the assistance of an "army of nurses."

According to the report, Fierceton spent the next 22 days in a hospital and was discharged to a foster home.

It remains unknown at the time of this reporting why — or where — Fierceton was hospitalized, but an investigation later launched by the Rhodes committee found that her allegations were "inconsistent with the hospital records."

Diary entries obtained by police following the incident reportedly detailed how Fierceton disliked her mother's boyfriend and wanted to move out of the family home.

According to the report, Fierceton weighed "pros and cons" of reporting her mother for abuse. Among the "cons" were problems such as having no money for college and no vehicle.

Anything else?

Morrison told the Chronicle that she deeply loves her daughter and only wants the best for her.

"Our greatest desire is that Mackenzie chooses to live a happy, healthy, honest, and productive life, using her extraordinary gifts for the highest good," Morrison said.

In a December lawsuit, Fierceton accused the Rhodes Trust of attacking her and victimizing her all over again.

In the suit, the outlet reported, Fierceton said that she never lied about her background and insisted that she was considered low-income when she applied to college.

She added that the university made up the existence of an "anonymous tipster" and is simply retaliating against her because she filed a health and safety complaint against the school following a seizure she claimed to have had in a basement classroom.

The university has insisted that there is no merit to her claim.

"Penn and the Rhodes Trust received credible information that called into question statements Ms. Fierceton made in her applications for admission, financial assistance, and scholarships," a statement from the school said. "The Rhodes Trust conducted its own investigation, during which it considered evidence and arguments provided by Ms. Fierceton and her attorney. It prepared a comprehensive report which was provided to Ms. Fierceton in April 2020. The Trust then gave Ms. Fierceton the opportunity to withdraw her candidacy if she chose to do so. Ms. Fierceton accepted that offer and withdrew her candidacy."

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