KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WDTN) – The story of a terminally ill child dying in a Tennessee Santa Claus’s arms spread across the internet on Monday. On Wednesday, the original publisher of the story declared that it was not able to be verified.
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. “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 was 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.”