By now, you’ve undoubtedly seen the heartbreaking story of a terminally ill 5-year-old child who died on Santa’s lap just moments after he finally got to meet his holiday hero (click here to see the video in case you missed it). The story was shared by teary-eyed people everywhere who lavished praise on the man who played Santa Claus for the tragically sick child. There’s just one problem: the whole thing might not have even happened.
As the story goes, veteran Santa Claus cosplayer Eric Schmitt-Matzen of Tennessee was informed by a nurse friend of his that there was a 5-year-old patient with days to live that desperately wanted to meet Santa Claus. Schmitt-Matzen quickly donned his jolly attire and rushed to the hospital, where he presented the boy with a gift and comforted him during his last minutes of life.
The Knoxville News Sentinel was the first to break the story, printing the transcript of a conversation between Schmitt-Matzen and a columnist that detailed the sad event. Schmitt-Matzen retold the tale to several media outlets, noticeably omitting details like the name of the hospital or the boy’s family in a supposed effort to protect their privacy.
However, the newspaper has since amended the viral article: “Since publication of this story, the News Sentinel has done additional investigation in an attempt to independently verify Schmitt-Matzen’s account. This has proven unsuccessful,” reads a message prefacing the story.
While the News Sentinel claims to have “checked out” Schmitt-Matzen’s background, reporters have been unable to confirm that the touching encounter between Santa Claus and the dying child happened in the first place. Schmitt-Matzen has allegedly remained steadfast about not revealing the names of his nurse friend or any of the family members involved.
“Therefore, because the story does not meet the newspaper’s standards of verification, we are no longer standing by the veracity of Schmitt-Matzen’s account,” the News Sentinel published in a follow-up piece.
For what it’s worth, Schmitt-Matzen continues to stick by the story, insisting that being called a liar is not nearly as bad as having a 5-year-old child die in his arms. Commenters have also expressed support for the kind-hearted St. Nick by pointing out that Schmitt-Matzen is simply adhering to patient confidentiality ethics by not naming the boy’s family.