Oprah Visit Is a Hoax

Sick student and S. Texas school duped by former show producer

School officials and a student who successfully battled a life-threatening illness spent six months thinking Oprah Winfrey was coming to Victoria to tell the eighth-grade girl's story.

It turns out they were victims of an apparent hoax.

The buzz started in April when Victoria school district officials received a packet that appeared to come from "The Oprah Winfrey Show." In it, they were invited to be part of a project that focused on schools and students, said district spokeswoman Diane Boyer.

Follow-up e-mails led school officials to believe they were negotiating for the use of the school and the need for publicity releases for children involved in the filming, Boyer said. But one of the key purported correspondents by e-mail or mail was a former Winfrey executive producer who hadn't produced a show in five years, Winfrey spokeswoman Angela De Paul said in Thursday's editions of the Victoria Advocate.

No one from the school district actually spoke with staff members for Winfrey's Harp Productions Inc., Boyer said.

De Paul said Winfrey wasn't coming to Victoria to film a show.

"Nor had she planned to," De Paul said.

The apparent hoax fell apart when claims of connections to the Children's Miracle Network, which grants wishes for sick children, turned out to be false.

The student, Hunter Pence, started Hunter's Hope to educate people about the drug-resistant staph infection she overcame last year. She said that until this week, she had no reason to believe her Winfrey appearance wouldn't happen.

"I can't wrap my brain around it," Pence said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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