Newspaper no longer stands by story of boy dying in Santa’s arms

Posted: 7:37 PM, Dec 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-14 19:37:05-05

In a story Dec. 12, The Associated Press published a story, relying on information from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, about a man portraying Santa Claus who says a terminally ill boy died in his arms. The newspaper now says that it cannot independently verify the man’s story and no longer stands by it. The man has told the same story to other media outlets but refused to divulge identifying details to the newspaper, including the name of the boy or the hospital where he died.

A corrected version of the story is below:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville News-Sentinel says it no longer stands by the story of a man who told the newspaper that a terminally ill boy died in his arms while he was portraying Santa Claus.

The story, published in the News-Sentinel on Sunday and picked up by outlets all over the world, was about Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who said he had promised to protect the identities of the child’s family and the nurse who summoned him to the boy’s hospital bedside.

In follow-up interviews, Schmitt-Matzen continued to stand by his account but declined to reveal the identities of those involved, according to the News-Sentinel.

In a story posted on the newspaper’s website Wednesday, editor Jack McElroy and columnist Sam Venable, who wrote the original story, said Schmitt-Matzen’s story “remains unverified.”

They wrote that they could not determine whether his account was accurate.

They say they cannot stand by the veracity of Schmitt-Matzen’s account because it does not meet the newspaper’s standards of verification.