Last week the Knoxville News Sentinel made more than just headlines when they released the story about a young boy dying in Santa’s arms. They published an interview with a man named Eric Schmitt-Matzen, the Santa who allegedly held the little boy as he died.
The story immediately became a viral hit and was shared across the globe. While the interview actually happened, the Sentinel has no way to confirm Schmitt-Matzen’s story because he refused to provide the family’s identity in an attempt to protect their privacy.
Now the Sentinel published a follow up article yesterday saying they no longer stand behind Schmitt-Matzen’s story,
Schmitt-Matzen had not approached the News Sentinel originally with the story. 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.
Since publication, the News Sentinel has done additional investigation in an attempt to independently verify Schmitt-Matzen’s account. This has proven unsuccessful. Although facts about his background have checked out, his story of bringing a gift to a dying child remains unverified. The News Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzen’s account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate.
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.
Jack McElroy, editor
Sam Venable, columnist and original author
While they cannon confirm that this story is fake news, they cannot deny it either. After the original story went viral, Schmitt-Matzen has repeated it in multiple television and radio interviews. There is no evidence to suggest that Schmitt-Matzen is lying, but no media outlet has been able to confirm his story from a secondary source either.