KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The story of a terminally ill child dying in a Tennessee Santa Claus’s arms spread across the internet earlier this week. On Wednesday, the original publisher of the story declared that it was not able to be verified.
The story, which you may have seen on KXAN by way of the Associated Press, was a very emotional piece, made more poignant by the Christmas season.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel told the story of Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a Santa Claus who does about 80 events a year. He says he was asked to meet with the 5-year-old a few weeks ago.
He says the boy gave him a big hug, asked “Santa, can you help me?” and died in his arms.
“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen told the News-Sentinel reporter on Sunday. “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive.
The News Sentinel said Wednesday finding additional information about who the boy was or who his family is had proven unsuccessful. Schmitt-Matzen had originally told the newspaper he would not reveal them to protect their identity.
“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 said in a follow up story. “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.”
Schmitt-Matzen has not commented on the decision.