The self-proclaimed but frequently self-debunked fact-checking website Snopes has been on a remarkable run of late to make itself a mockery. They have shown an inability to understand humor, and just recently it has shown to be incapable of determining the difference between satire outlets and intentional deceptive websites (even though this is their basic mission statement.)

Now the authoritative voice of reason has rendered itself completely meaningless. In a latest attempt to get to the truth the research outlet has set out to correct the record on Kentucky Fried Chicken, and whether the founder – Colonel Harlen Sanders – had stolen the globally famous recipe.

What makes this particular story compelling is that Snopes has been unable to find any facts at all to support the claim — and it then declares that, although lacking any proof whatsoever, it is a case of stolen intellectual property.

How about THAT for a euphemism?! “…alludes to a deeper truth” is some magnificent spin for what should accurately be reported as “we found no evidence whatsoever”.

That’s a deeper truth, right there.

Here is a breakdown of what has happened in this fiasco. Based on a social media meme the story making the rounds is that Colonel Harlan Sanders built his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire on a recipe he appropriated from a black servant woman by the name of Miss Childress. There is an accompanying picture of the woman. It is said that under pressure from the Childress family Sanders paid the woman $1,200 for the use of her recipe.

Here is the mountain of no evidence Snopes came up with:

  • There is no record of Harlan acquiring the recipe from anyone
  • There is no documentation of his paying for a recipe
  • The blog post attributes the story as appearing in a food book; there is no such reference in the book
  • The photo held up as proof is from an advertisement for a brand of baking flour
  • There is no evidence that Miss Childress even exists

Now anyone approaching the realm of journalism would see this abject lack of any corroborating evidence to be a sign that we are dealing in a myth. Not these sharp minds at Snopes. They saw this lack of proof as all the reason to barrel down the road of supposition.

Even if they had no proof Snopes resorts to the “…but we all know“-level of supposition. Lacking direct evidence they sought out a biographer who makes this claim that is held of as “evidence:

Anyone who knew anything of the South knew that no Kentucky colonel would have cooked the fried chicken in a southern household; the chicken in prosperous southern households, particularly in the Colonel’s era, was inevitably cooked by a black maid or family housekeeper. Colonel Sanders created an alternative reality in which the white planter not only ate the chicken but implicitly made it. Nothing could have been further from the truth.”

Uh…yea — except that is in fact, the truth. Harlan Sanders was not a planter stealing recipes. He began his enterprise with a gas station where he also served food. His chicken became well known enough he had to expand the location, and eventually open an independent restaurant.

He became a Colonel much later, based on his name that he developed as a result of his food. It is how he became a prosperous household, not by being a rich baron who decided to steal the recipe from his help.

But the lack of proof led Snopes to this conclusion:

Alternatively, Sanders might have borrowed and taken elements of several fried chicken recipes, perhaps some of them invented by, or passed down or shared between, African American women — in the way that many recipes evolve and change over the years.

It could also be said that this was the very process Sanders himself used as he developed his recipe. It is with an amazing amount of obliviousness that Snopes cannot entertain the idea of a man who is running a kitchen could develop a recipe. Nope, he must have stolen it. And it could have ONLY been stolen from African American women — nobody else in that era was capable of cooking.

Certainly not a man who owned and operated a restaurant, with his own kitchen.

It was a couple of weeks ago that The Babylon Bee retweeted a post it had published in January about the fact-check site that has sworn to a feud with The Bee. It is a remarkably accurate prediction, in light of this avoidance of facts made by the fact-checkers.