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Did Santa Claus lie about little boy dying in his arms?

By Jon Sharman

The heartbreaking story that of a young boy meeting Santa for the very last time might be a massive hoax.

Earlier this week a touching story from Knoxville, Tennessee took the internet by storm - it said a young unnamed child had sadly passed away in hospital in the arms of an actor playing Santa Claus.

The story, originally published by the Knoxville News Sentinel, reported that Campbell County Santa Claus actor, Eric Schmitt-Matzen, had recieved a call from a nurse at a local hospital.

The nurse explained he had to go “right now” to visit a boy who wanted to meet Santa.

Schmitt-Matzen recounted to the paper, and multiple other news agencies in the following days, that the unamed 5-year-old had told him that he was going to die and miss Christmas.

He added: "He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: 'Santa, can you help me?'

"I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.

"Everyone outside the room realised what happened. His mother ran in. She was screaming, 'No, no, not yet!' I handed her son back and left as fast as I could."

However, in the last 24 hours, the Sentinel has withdrawn its original story, reporting that the facts from the touching tale cannnot be verified.

Editor Jack McElroy explained in a letter on the site that an investigation to find additional information and perform basic fact checking had "proven unsuccessful".

McElroy adds: "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."

Investigating the story, Snopes said that hospitals in the area were unable to confirm if Schmitt-Matzen's visit had taken place. Meanwhile CNN reportedly also contacted major hospitals in the Knoxville area and none could confirm his account.

CNN added:  "The coroner's office was unable to provide information without a name. A search of obituaries in Tennessee newspapers from the beginning of 2016 for 5-year-old boys did not yield conclusive proof confirming or refuting the account.

"In this dark age of 'fake news' the vast majority of people on social media seem unsurprised that the story may have been fake."

However, others have been quick to point out that the media's Christmas fact checking puts their fact checking of other stories to shame...

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