Update (January 10, 2020): Jessica Sumlin, the Memphis mother of 11 that the internet rallied around, has been accused of lying about her circumstances, reports Fox13 Memphis.
After Sumlin said on air that she was facing eviction after being laid off from her job just days before Christmas, hundreds of people called the station to see how they could help her.
With Sumlin’s story spreading across the internet, some people on social media claimed that she was not telling the truth about her circumstances.
A #Memphis mom with 11 kids is refuting claims that she’s scamming the Internet out of thousands. When #JessicaSumlin’s story went viral. Sumlin, a Memphis mom of 11, was asking for donations after losing her 12 year job at Taco Bell just days before Christmas. Receipts Released pic.twitter.com/OQXQ9yzjKA— talksandthought (@Talksandthought) January 10, 2020
But Sumlin says she’s being completely honest.
“A lot of people got a lot of negative things to say but where were people when I was in the dark? When me and my kids were walking back to appointments when I was in school?” she said.
Some people claimed that Sumlin never worked at Taco Bell, refuting her claims of working at the fast-food restaurant for 12 years. Fox13 reached out to Taco Bell to determine the truth. While the fast-food chain said they couldn’t comment on Sumlin’s work history, FOX13 confirmed seeing W2 forms from the franchise going back to 2016.
The mother was also accused of being dishonest about her high-risk pregnancy which she initially claimed was the reason she resigned from the fast-food chain. Sumlin reportedly provided documentation from Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital to support her claims.
There were also reports that the mother was dishonest about her electricity bill and having her lights cut off. Good samaritans, however, donated money directly to the power company to cover her bill.
Shelby County Commissioner Tammi Sawyer called the power company to contribute to Sumlin’s electricity bill and said she was able to confirm that the bill was more than $1,300 and that Sumlin’s lights were, in fact, turned off.
Speculation continued to swirl after a GoFundMe for Sumlin was found with a different story than what was shared with news outlets. The GoFundMe stated, “I had a newborn and someone broke in and stole all my children’s things.”
Sumlin said the information was from a GoFundMe she created about a year ago and claimed she didn’t know how to update the page. She said she had no idea the old GoFundMe was still up and running until people started donating.
Despite the mother providing documentation surrounding her circumstances, questions continue to arise.
Original (January 9, 2020): Jessica Sumlin, a mother of 11, was facing eviction after she was laid off from her seasonal job. She worried about what would become of her and her kids when her story went viral. As Sumlin’s story spread, her circumstances were met with both empathy and criticism.
"If I had family to go to, like immediate family, I’d go and ask them, but I don’t have any immediate family. It’s just me and my kids," Sumlin told Fox13 Memphis.
In an emotional interview with the Memphis Fox affiliate, Sumlin explained how despite her best efforts she couldn’t seem to make ends meet and was desperately looking for employment.
“I’ve been filling out job applications, going places and everything is just piling up,” she said.
The Memphis native left her job of 12 years at Taco Bell due to a high-risk pregnancy. She found a temporary job in November but was laid off days before Christmas.
Sumlin's story went viral. While there were a fair number of apathetic responses given the nature of the internet, many wanted to come to Sumlin's aid.
Days after Fox 13 aired their original broadcast, the station was swamped with calls and messages from the Memphis community wondering how they could help. In one instance, a business owner who didn’t want to be shown on camera sent a $250 check to the news station to forward to the distressed mother. Across the internet, Sumlin’s GoFundMe exploded and reached donations over $10,000, surpassing the initial goal of $2,000.
One woman said she even connected with Sumlin to aid her in professional development.
Update: super excited that we’ve been able to connect with Jessica! I’ll be working with her on her professional development needs completely free of charge 💕 https://t.co/AtLttC3593— Queen of Bomb Resumés (@_britt_el) January 7, 2020
One woman even said she's now employed although that has yet to be confirmed.
We all we got. pic.twitter.com/AsJ9XP7KrR— tiffany (@mombxtch) January 8, 2020
Sumlin was overwhelmed by the acts of generosity, especially when her gifted funds came just in time to turn her lights back on.
“I’ve been getting them all day and I would like to thank everybody that helped me, I really needed the help as you can see but I’m fixin' to put this on, and it helps and they cut it back on all I can do is just wish, pray but I really thank Peden Insurance Services, this means a lot,” she said.
People also pointed out the racial element to critiques of Sumlin, noting that when white women like Nadya "Octomom" Suleman or Michelle Duggar had several children, they were plied with profitable endorsements and fame. Suleman signed a $250,000 contract for her and her children to be featured in a reality television show in 2009. The Duggar family became a TLC franchise beginning with the reality show 19 Kids and Counting.