It turns out that a Santa Claus story that was carried by many media outlets — including a report published Monday by TVWeek.com — may not have been true.
In a follow-up report today by the Knoxville News Sentinel, which ran the original column, the paper says it was unable to verify the story about a local Santa Claus who said a terminally ill 5-year-old boy died in his arms.
The story about Santa Claus portrayer Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s heart-wrenching visit to a local hospital went viral, with countless print and electronic news outlets picking it up.
“Schmitt-Matzen had not approached the News Sentinel originally with the story,” the paper reported today. “The information came to the newspaper indirectly through a known source, and Schmitt-Matzen was then contacted and asked about the incident. At the time of that initial interview, he said he had promised to protect the identities of the child’s family and the nurse who summoned him to the hospital bedside. In follow-up interviews, he has continued to hold this position and stand by his account.”
Additional investigation by the paper in an effort to independently verify the story proved fruitless, the paper reported.
“The News Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzen’s account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate,” the paper reported. “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.”