A Kenyan journalist convinced world media that a South African student conned his way into free KFC – even though it wasn’t his first dodgy story

Business Insider SA

Kenya, KFC
The Kenyan journalist stands by his tweet
David Silverman/Getty Images
  • A single tweet by a Kenyan journalist about a supposed 27-year-old South African student arrested for supposedly scamming KFC out of free chicken was reported worldwide as fact – by some of the biggest outlets int he world.
  • The journalist maintains it's all true, and the KFC's denial is the lie, though he won't provide more details.
  • That's not what police and prosecutors say, though.
  • This is not the firs time the radio journalist, Teddy Otieno, also known as Teddy Eugene, has made waves with supposed news that turned out to be not quite verifiable.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

A Kenyan journalist maintains that a South African student – who has become something of an anonymous hero on social media – scammed KFC out of free chicken for a year before being caught.

But KFC, and police, and prosecutors know nothing about such a case, and with no further corroborating detail, it is starting to look as if Teddy Otieno, also known as Teddy Eugene, may not have had the facts quite straight.

That, though, didn't stop the news of the supposed arrest of the student from running around the world.

Otieno/Eugene told the story in a single tweet on Monday, providing only bare details.

The story was reported by respected American television network CBS, ran on South African radio, was reported by any number of smaller outlets and blogs, and was also published by the Daily Mail, one of the planet's most-read publications.

All information beyond the original tweet seems to have been drawn from the website Daily Active Kenya, which cited no source of any kind for such embellishing details as the fact that the student was transported by a limo-driver accomplice.

Those details were, in turn, quoted by the likes of the Daily Mail as "local" news – despite coming from a country 4,000 kilometres away from KwaZulu-Natal, the scene of the supposed crime and arrest.

The Kenyan journalist stands by his tweet.

Business Insider can confirm that Otieno, who is verified on Twitter, is a news journalist for the Kenyan radio station, Hot 96 FM.

Speaking to Business Insider South Africa, station manager Cynthia Mwangi distanced the organisation from his KFC report.

"He tweets in his personal capacity and has nothing to do with us," she said.

Reached only by email, Otieno said he stands by his tweet.

"[I] got it from a contact in KwaZulu Natal," he said, and characterised KFC's denial as "a PR stunt".

Under South African law, arrested individuals are supposed to appear before court no later than 48 hours after their arrest.

But by mid-week, said Natasha Karra, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, there had been no such appearance.

Police in the province too had heard of the arrest they had supposedly made only via social media.

This is not the first time Otieno has tweeted highly questionable stories – to much attention. In one instance the country formerly known as Swaziland trended on Twitter after he said that, by decree of eSwatini King Mswati III, men there faced jail time if they did not marry two wives.

According to his tweet, the law would come into effect in June, but was later refuted. 

The rumour spread about the polygamy decree was malicious and poisonous, said Swatini's government spokesperson Percy Simelane, Times Live reported.

"His Majesty has not made any pronouncement to that effect as it has never been an issue raised," by the people, Simelane said.

He said the story was "not only an insult to the monarchy and the culture of eSwatini but a disgrace to journalism".

Meredith Cash contributed to this report.

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