Remember that heart-wrenching story about a Tennessee boy who died in a professional Santa actor’s arms?
Well, it turns out that story may have been too good to be true. Too good, in fact, that no one really bothered to look into whether or not it was true.
The Knoxville News Sentinel broke the story of Santa actor Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s account of the devastating moment a young Knoxville boy died in his arms. The video of the interview immediately went viral, as Schmitt-Matzen fought back tears describing the event.
Schmitt-Matzen talked about a 5-year-old boy whose last dying wish was to meet Santa. At the parent’s request, he rushed to the hospital to meet the young boy. After the two shared an embrace in which Schmitt-Matzen called the boy Santa’s “number one elf,” the boy died. The whole time, Schmitt-Matzen declined to share specific details like the boy’s name to respect his family’s privacy.
Several publications, including CNN, Fox News, Time and the Washington Post, reached out to Schmitt-Matzen for interviews, and soon after published articles about his story.
Now, many news outlets are now questioning Schmitt-Matzen’s story altogether. According to The News Sentinel, they have been unable to verify the story that broke millions of hearts.
In an article released on Wednesday, the outlet made a statement of where they stand on the issue. The paper says they heard about the story indirectly through a known source and were not approached by Schmitt-Matzen directly.
“The News Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzen’s account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate,” said the publication. “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.
Reporters from all over the world have been calling Knoxville-area hospitals to verify independently, but are ultimately coming up short. Schmitt-Matzen continues to stand by his account of the child’s “pleading eyes” and love for Christmas, which is fine. But if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that we can never have nice things for too long. Not even on Christmas, it seems.