Knoxville newspaper no longer stands behind story of Santa and dying boy

A story published by the Knoxville News Sentinel Sunday giving an account of a Tennessee man who portrays Santa Claus and his story about a hospitalized child who died in this arms, is no longer considered to be verifiable. The editor of the newspaper, Jack McElroy, issued a statement Wednesday saying the publication no longer stood behind the story.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s story went viral with national news outlets interviewing him. He told a story about a 5-year-old boy who was dying. Schmitt-Matzen said the boy asked him to “help him” before he died in his arms.

McElroy said in the statement that Schmitt-Matzen had not approached the News Sentinel originally with the story, instead the information came from a known source. 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, according to the statement from McElroy.

Since publishing the first story, McElroy said the paper did additional investigations to independently verify Schmitt-Matzen’s account, which proved to be 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.”