Shots were fired by a Fox News host in the so-called "war on Christmas," moving the conversation toward speculation about the racial identities of Jesus and Santa Claus. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that the controversy was fueled when Megyn Kelly said Santa “just is” white.
Kelly made the comment on Wednesday’s "The Kelly File" in response to a Slate article, written by a black writer, that argued Santa should be replaced by a new cultural holiday icon, a penguin, because using a black-and-white animal would “spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame that I remember from childhood.”
The writer, Aisha Harris, added, “Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you. … That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white — and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a ‘joke’ or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes — helps perpetuate the whole ‘white-as-default’ notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).”
The Times notes that Kelly criticized the article, saying, “Just because [an image] makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.” She added, “I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure — that’s a verifiable fact."
She also informed viewers, “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. Santa is what he is. … I wanted to get that straight."
Scott Collins writes in the Times article: “Kudos to Kelly for worrying so much about kids under 10, who as everyone knows constitute a major portion of the Fox News demographic. Of course, the little ones also understand what it means to be a ‘historical figure’ as opposed to someone who, say, runs an opinion show on a cable news network.”
But Kelly’s comments caused a furor with some viewers and critics. Mother Jones was one publication that took issue with Kelly, writing that Jesus was not a white man, and neither is Santa “because Santa is fake."
“The historical Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. Scholars overwhelmingly agree that he did not look like a white European. He is so often depicted that way because white Europeans — and their similarly pasty American descendants — are so often the ones doing the depicting,” Mother Jones notes.