Father Of Homeless Man In Touching Viral Video: My Son Was Manipulated
After a 56-year-old homeless man featured in a heartwarming viral video was found dead in a Mid-Wilshire alley last month, his father has finally spoken out—and says his son was manipulated by the man who made the video.
Kenni Thomas Nickel was the subject of YouTube prankster Josh Lin's video released in December. In Lin's social experiment, he gave Kenni $100 and followed him to see how he would spend it. Kenni surprised Lin by using the money to buy groceries and distributing them to other people. The video quickly went viral and has since amassed over 39 million views, and viewers donated over $145,000 to an IndieGogo that Lin set up to help Nickel get on his feet.
However, Kenni didn't have a happy ending, as his body was discovered months later on May 28 in the alley of a CVS. He died from chronic alcoholism.
People who say they witnessed the video being shot said that the whole thing was staged, while Lin has vehemently argued his video is real. Although Lin wrote online that he transferred the crowdfunding money to Kenni in March, Kenni's brother, Kevin Nickel, has come out saying he doesn't think Kenni ever got the money.
Kenni's father, William "Wally" Nickel, is one of the people who believes the video was fake, and that Lin manipulated his son. (Lin made two follow-up videos with Kenni, and in one of the videos he released in February, it showed Kenni getting reunited with his father.)
"I just don't feel Josh Lin has been honest at all," William told NBC Los Angeles.
Lin previously said that the first time he met Kenni was when he shot the video, though William said his son told him that they met before that. William also says Lin sent his son a document that said he would need to be reimbursed for nearly $20,000 in expenses, citing it as an example of the kinds of shady things Lin would do. He plans on obtaining a death certificate for Kenni so he can access his bank account to see how much money was actually given to him, and he wants to use any funds to open a homeless shelter in his son's honor. He also plans on suing Lin.
Though NBC Los Angeles tried to contact Lin, they have not received any comment from him.