'Probably Entirely False': John Ziegler Disputes Viral Story About Boy Dying in Santa's Arms

In what might be the biggest letdown of the Christmas season, a viral story of kindness was recently labeled "fake news." The story about a kindly man dressed as Santa Claus who visited a hospital in response to a 5-year-old boy's dying wish might not have happened at all.

RELATED: Santa Shows His ‘Number One Elf’ What Love Looks Like

Glenn introduced his guest, John Ziegler, who wrote a column on Mediaite questioning the tale, by calling him "Mr. Grinch."

Listen to the clip or read the transcript below for more.

TRANSCRIPT

GLENN: John Ziegler, you're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

(laughter)

JOHN: Glenn, your description of me there sounds like what my wife would say if she's describing my entire career. That's pretty close.

GLENN: Yes. Yes.

So, John, I mean, I read this story this week, and even Jeffy said -- after I did the story on the air, so I've got a few questions. And I said, "Shut up."

JOHN: Right. Right.

GLENN: But you -- you have to go and somehow or another prove Santa is a liar.

PAT: Well, that may be a good thing if a little kid didn't die, though. Right? That's awesome.

STU: Yeah, that's great.

JOHN: Well, that's one of the things that confuses me about this story is, you know, I'm taking a lot of flak for a column I wrote on Mediaite questioning this story.

I'm pretty well convinced at this point that the story is false. Probably entirely false. And I'm happy to explain why.

But you're exactly right. This is good news.

PAT: Yeah.

JOHN: I don't think any 5-year-old boy died in Santa's arms.

PAT: Good.

GLENN: Okay. Explain it here, John. Because the Santa looks like such a great Santa's helper. I can't believe this guy would intentionally -- I mean, I -- I mean, we've seen some horrible things. But for this guy to --

JOHN: Right. Right.

PAT: If you missed the story. He says that he got a call from the hospital, right? From the nurse or whatever.

GLENN: Yeah. Yeah.

PAT: And you don't even have time to put on your full Santa gear, just get here. Little boy is dying. His last wish is to see Santa Claus. And so he races there. He asks the parents to wait outside in the hallway. He goes in.

JEFFY: Family already miraculously has a present for Santa to give him.

PAT: Right. Right. So what have you found out, John?

JOHN: Well, you know, I think what Glenn has inadvertently done is put his finger on why the news media bought this story and why the original columnist, not a reporter, a columnist for a small newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee, bought into this hook, line, and sinker.

Because I believe this guy, this Santa was imbued with all of our projections of Santa Claus. It's not possible that a guy who looks like Santa Claus could do this.

And in his defense, he's a tremendous -- if he's acting, a tremendous actor because he did put on the waterworks. And it was very compelling in the story that he told. Except there's some very important facts missing, like the name of the nurse that called him. How about the name of the hospital? How about the date on which this happened? The reporter, in an interview after this thing went super viral, says he has no idea when this actually happened. He thinks it happened about a month ago. How about the name of the boy? We don't need a last name. How about a first name? How about any other witness to what happened --

GLENN: All right. Jimmy. The name is Jimmy. How is that? Does it make you happy, Mr. Grinch?

JOHN: Well, what I would then do, Glenn, which is what I've done, is I would spend a ridiculous amount of time searching the obituaries for Knoxville, Tennessee, for the entire month of November for any 5-year-old boy, and guess what we found?

JEFFY: That sounds like fun.

PAT: And then there was none? Zero.

JOHN: There was not even close to one.

PAT: Wow, that's great. Good.

JOHN: And the reality -- look, here's the classic story. And, Glenn, I have seen this happen in other cases. Ask Stu and Pat about my experience on the Penn State, quote, unquote, scandal.

JEFFY: Right.

JOHN: Where the media buys into a narrative. And there should be massive amounts of evidence, and there's none. But it doesn't matter to the news media because they love the narrative. They don't care.

PAT: They don't care.

JOHN: And so once they have the narrative and once it goes viral and it's a tremendous story and a great headline, look out. There should be massive evidence here. And there's none. And the fact that Santa at this point is still sticking by his story, without anybody backing him up, not the mom, not the nurse, nothing -- no dates that should be there, to me indicates the whole story is a hoax.

PAT: It's fishy. It's fishy.

JOHN: Because if it was just an exaggeration, he would be able to say, "Well, here is the mom. Can't you come over and -- you know, help me out here. Or here's the nurse." Instead --

GLENN: So you don't even think there was a kid at all?

JOHN: Well, I mean, could there possibly have been a germ of truth somewhere? Yeah. But I have a -- and this is purely speculation on my part, but I think one of the weirdest elements of this story is that he says that his wife went to Nashville from Knoxville immediately after this happened. And he stayed in Knoxville because he was so emotionally upset.

Now, being married, that immediately says to me, well, wait a minute. Is this a cover story for some reason why he needed to be in Knoxville and not go with his wife to Nashville and this thing got blown out of proportion when a reporter asked him about it?

Interestingly, the reporter said that he was mystified by this. Boy, this Santa really didn't want to tell his story. And as a matter of fact, at one point, he almost backed out of doing the story with me.

And I'm thinking, "Duh! Of course, he's almost backing out. Because it's not true, and he's afraid that this might come end up coming back to bite him," never realizing --

GLENN: Hang on, Mr. -- hang on, Mr. Ziegler. By the way, Ziegler -- is that a Christian name?

JOHN: Actually it is. You know, the Trumpsters like to call me a Jew boy. But I'm actually quite Christian. I'm a baptized --

GLENN: Well, I'll believe it when I see your baptismal certificate.

JOHN: I have to speak to you, Glenn, from outside of my daughter's Christmas recital.

GLENN: Right. I'm sure. I'm sure. What, are you going to expose that as a fraud too?

Now, let me ask you this: So, John, are you -- now, I know this is your speculation. You don't have verification. But did you just speculate that Santa was cheating on Mrs. Claus and this was a cover story?

JOHN: Well, I didn't say that. You said that, Glenn. I'm saying consistent with there needing to be someone for him to stay behind in Knoxville while he was wife --

JEFFY: America heard you say it, John. America heard you say it.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh --

PAT: John, is it possible at all that this happened in October, or have you checked October records too?

JOHN: Well, I've not checked October records. But the reporter is positive that this thing happened in November, although he doesn't have a date.

PAT: Oh.

JOHN: By the way, the date is -- now, lack of date is important because it doesn't have verification and there should be a date easily. But think about it logically: In October, what 5-year-old boy is thinking about Santa Claus as he's dying?

PAT: Right. Yeah.

JOHN: It's too early. It's too early. The story makes no sense. What mom leaves their dying son alone with a total stranger?

PAT: That -- that's the most preposterous --

STU: That's the one that got me. You picture your kids. They're a minute away from death, you're just like, "I'll hang out in the hall while you're with Santa Claus." It doesn't feel like something you would do as a parent. You would stay in the room no matter what.

GLENN: You might have been hungry. You hadn't been eating very much. The cafeteria is about to close. Somebody is there to sit with the kid. I'm going to go to the lunchroom for a minute. I'm going to grab a sandwich.

PAT: Yeah, as he's dying within the next five minutes. I doubt that. I doubt that.

JEFFY: Eh.

JOHN: And, by the way, his parents already have a gift ready to in early November for a Santa --

PAT: Right.

JOHN: Who, by the way, interestingly, part of his story, Glenn, which is suspicious to me, he doesn't have his full Santa garb on because he was rushing out of the house to go --

JEFFY: Well, the nurse told him not to.

JOHN: Well, doesn't that give him the ultimate out here? Plausible deniability for why no one remembers a Santa Claus in the hospital and why no hospital right now is verifying this story in the Knoxville area? To me, it makes --

GLENN: Have you called the hospitals? Have you called the hospitals?

JOHN: I did not, but Snopes did. And they have not -- in fact, that's what really started the ball rolling this morning, that the newspaper had to back off the story. Because they -- get this. This is journalism in 2016. The newspaper said that their investigation began after they originally reported the story to not verify any of the facts.

STU: Yeah.

JOHN: How about before the story?

STU: Yeah, here's the quote: Since publication, the News Sentinel has additional investigation in an attempt to independently verify the 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 the 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 the account.

GLENN: I will tell you, John, the guys said -- the guys said earlier today that, you know, Glenn, he's just trying to do this, get his name out, pump up Santa business because he's a great Santa.

JEFFY: Yeah.

GLENN: I got to tell you, this wrecks this -- shave your beard, man. You are going to be the pariah of Santas if you made this up.

JOHN: But, Glenn, I think it's possible that this thing snowballed out of control and he never intended it to go this far. I think it's -- one of the many things that got my antenna up was this coming from a small market in Knoxville, Tennessee. I don't think anybody involved in this story had any expectation it ever gets beyond Knoxville. Because of the world we're now living in, things can explode overnight.

JEFFY: Right.

JOHN: And how about a little bit of focus on the news media? We're talking about major news media outlets that picked this story up, hook, line, and sinker. With zero scrutiny, zero follow-up, and zero corroboration of any of these facts that don't exist. That to me is the real part of this story that matters. Because it exposes how broken the news media is in 2016. By the way, that's partially how we got Donald Trump as our president.

STU: Do you think there's any chance that he's just going over and above to protect the family's identity and keep their privacy? And he's maybe manufactured some of the details to throw people off the trail?

JOHN: This morning -- I wrote my story for Mediaite last night. We decided to wait another 12 hours or so before we went with it because we were waiting, "Okay. Is it possible that somebody will come forward?" At this point, this story has gotten so big, there's no way that the nurse doesn't come forward. The mom doesn't come forward on background. Somebody to back up this guy's story.

There's just no way. So it's theoretically possible, yes, but there would be evidence of that by now, given the nature of the story. And the fact that it doesn't exist -- the absence of evidence, in my view is evidence of absence.

GLENN: John, one last question.

JOHN: Yes, Glenn.

GLENN: The jolly old elf hears what's being said about him, hears that he's -- his affair on Mrs. Claus while she was baking Christmas cookies has been exposed --

JOHN: Yeah.

GLENN: He takes a leap without the flying reindeer. Then how do you feel, John? You killed Santa.

JEFFY: Oh, boy.

JOHN: Well, my 4-year-old daughter is not going to be happy with me, I can assure you that. I will be in the doghouse for sure.

GLENN: Wow.

JOHN: I'm one of these weird guys, Glenn, who the truth still matters in a post-truth world.

GLENN: Yeah, I know. I appreciate you doing this. I bought into it too. And I wanted to believe. Because we questioned it. And I'm like, "Just leave it alone. Just leave it alone." I wanted to believe.

JOHN: But that's why it went viral, Glenn, and that's why it's important we expose this because this happens on more important stories than just this.

GLENN: Yes, I know. Yes. Yes. You're exactly right. And, John, I appreciate you coming on the show. And appreciating your -- your incredible -- seemingly incredible amount of time to investigate something as silly as this. And yet, it is the story of our days. This is what we're going through now on everything. Geo.

JOHN: Thanks so much, Glenn.

Hey, one of these days, let's talk about that Penn State story. It's so similar, it's unbelievable. But I appreciate your support. Thanks.

GLENN: You got it. Thanks, John. John Ziegler. I really like him.

PAT: He's great. He's great.

GLENN: He's really brilliant.

PAT: And he's right about the Penn State story. We should revisit that. The whole Joe Paterno thing. He's really passionate about --

JEFFY: That Penn State story is fascinating.

GLENN: Wait. Wait. Wait.

PAT: Oh, you don't know about that?

STU: This is a wormhole.

JEFFY: It is a wormhole.

PAT: Not only is Joe Paterno not guilty of anything. It didn't even happen.

GLENN: What?

PAT: Neither is what's-his-face, the guy who's in jail for it --

STU: Sandusky.

PAT: Yeah, Sandusky didn't do it either. That's John's case.

GLENN: What?

PAT: And he says there's a mountain --

JEFFY: And he makes a good case.

PAT: -- a mountain of evidence.

JEFFY: He makes a good case.

PAT: He makes a really -- yeah.

GLENN: Oh, let's -- when we get back in January --

PAT: He's fired up about it.

GLENN: When we get back in January, I have to hear about that. Because if that's true, we need to -- that's injustice.

PAT: Me too.

Oh, definitely.

GLENN: That's injustice.

PAT: Huge injustice.

GLENN: We need to help --

PAT: According to John, a humongous injustice has been done, and part of it was because Joe Paterno is conservative, or was.

GLENN: Wow.

STU: Was.

PAT: And he probably still is.

STU: Well, we don't know.

GLENN: Probably even more so now.

PAT: Probably more so.

STU: Probably hasn't changed his political opinion.

PAT: No, probably not.

Would Glenn make a better bounty hunter or a Jedi? You'll have to find out in a new episode of the Beltway Banthas Podcast, where Glenn goes deep on Star Wars with host Stephen Kent. In this 45 minute discussion, Stephen and Glenn explore the political themes of the Star Wars franchise, Darth Vader's redemption from Return of the Jedi, Glenn's earliest memories of seeing the films and even debate elements of the latest Star Wars films.

If you enjoy the pop culture and nerdy discussions that Glenn, Pat and Stu get into on the radio show, you'll love this! After you're through, you can also check out Stu Burguiere's appearance on Beltway Banthas to talk Star Wars. You can find that here.


It's never too early to start your Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa shopping. Or even birthday gift shopping. Especially if that special someone in your life is a Democrat. Because at last count, pretty much all the Democrats are now running for president. And that means there has never been a wider selection of official candidate merchandise to choose from. Whether you're into environmentalism, feminism, classism, socialism, or just plain love, there is a smorgasbord of classy items that you and yours will treasure forever... or at least until the next presidential election.

We have browsed each of the candidates' online stores, so you don't have to (it only took us three months). We have curated only the finest items from each of the Democrats running for president of the United States of America. Without further ado, here is your handy progressive gift guide – or maybe your what-not-to-gift guide.

First, the bargain basement options. Hurry! Time is running out to grab your Beto bandana, or your Delaney pack of golf balls, because at this point Stu has as much of a chance as these guys of getting the nomination.

Tom Steyer, for example – is he still in the race?


https://shop.tomsteyer.com/collections/frontpage/products/tom-2020-pattern-tee


There's way too much Tom here. That shirt's got more Toms than a Caucasian dentists' convention.

For the slightly more moderate Democrat in your life, perhaps they'd like to join the "Yang Gang"…

https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/bumper-stickers/products/yanggang-decal


Andrew Yang is a lock for Math Club president…


https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/apparel/products/math-hat


But for actual president? Well, I wouldn't make plans for how you're going to spend your $1,000-per-month Yang allowance just yet.

If you happen to be shopping for your dog, may I suggest this lovely "Dogs for Delaney" dog collar…


https://store.johndelaney.com/products/dogs-for-delaney-collar


John Delaney's definitely going to secure the canine vote with this kind of outreach. As for any human votes, that's another question entirely.

How 'bout this tastefully understated "Natural Canvas" Michael Bennet tote to remind you he's also still here?...


https://store.michaelbennet.com/michael-bennet-for-america-natural-canvas-tote/


Then again, it's a tote. So, it'll end up on the floor of your closet and you won't have it with you until that one random moment when you're out somewhere and you really need a tote bag. Just like Democrats will really wish they had a moderate when we're in the middle of the socialist nightmare of their creation.

Captain Planet himself, Jay Inslee recently dropped out of the race, but don't let that stop you from picking up what may be the greatest single item sold by anyone in this race…


https://store.jayinslee.com/elvis-the-elves-the-mystery-of-the-melting-snow-by-jay-inslee/


A children's book called Elvis & the Elves: the Mystery of the Melting Snow. Written and illustrated by Governor Jay Inslee. Talk about a whodunnit – how could that snow possibly be melting? Spoiler alert: it's because of evil, white, patriarchal capitalism. And Donald Trump.

Then there's the candidate who thinks you're a moron that can't pronounce his last name: Steve Bullock...


https://shop.stevebullock.com/collections/apparel/products/emoji-t-shirt


Get it? Bull. Lock. Oh, so that's how you say the name that sounds exactly how it's spelled.

There's another candidate who also thinks you need help pronouncing his last name…


https://store.peteforamerica.com/collections/apparel/products/boot-edge-edge-t-shirt


And he is definitely right about that. So, thank you, Pete "Boot Edge Edge." That helps.

Just outside the bargain bin section, but just barely, are candidates like Julian Castro and his "El Presidente" t-shirt…


https://store.julianforthefuture.com/julian-castro-loteria-card-white-tee/


When your last name's Castro, do you really want to go with a weird drawing of yourself as if you're a classic Latin American dictator on a postage stamp?

If you prefer a little "dark psychic forces" battling in your candidates, you'll love Marianne Williamson's "Turn Love Into a Political Force" rally sign…


https://store.marianne2020.com/collections/signs/products/love-rally-sign


"Turn Love Into a Political Force" would be an even better title for a Marianne Williamson album of 80s cover songs. And if you think I'm joking, then you haven't heard Bernie Sanders' classic 1987 folk album, We Shall Overcome. That's not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but it's also a very real thing.

Now, just a quick pause to consider the peculiar baby-wear that way too many candidates are selling…

…including Elizabeth Warren's trans-pride flag onesie. Let me get this straight – we can't force any gender on a child, because that's just cruel. But we can force a political advertisement on a baby? How do we know that baby is actually a Biden or Warren fan? The child may not even be a Democrat or a Socialist at all. That baby might self-identify as a Libertarian, or Republican, or even worse – a moderate Democrat.

Now to the premium items from the premium candidates. Elizabeth Warren – the candidate with the most honesty in her advertising…


https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/apparel/products/impolite-arrogant-women-make-history-unisex-t-shirt

-AND-

https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/drinkware/products/strong-american-unions-mug


Warren's merchandise reflects the woman herself – cold and humorless (watch her "This isn't funny" clip from the last debate here at the 4:27 mark). I'm sure she's really fun once you get to know her. Then again, maybe not.

Speaking of serious women, Kamala Harris wants to be president very badly for you, the people, as you can tell from her "For the People" poster…


https://store.kamalaharris.org/poster-for-the-people/


At $29.99 though, she's sure not charging "people's" prices. Of course, she might be having to pay royalties to a certain someone for riffing on their poster. Just saying.

For the race's number one socialist, there's a whole lot of capitalism going on in Bernie Sanders' campaign. He sells so many delightful items that it's hard to choose. But we did anyway. The most random item is this hundred-dollar, black, "Art of a Political Revolution – Artists for Bernie Sanders Coaches Jacket"…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/artists-for-bernie-coaches-jacket


Coaches across the land will be clamoring for this one. You know, since coaches are such a strong Bernie-socialist demographic.

If that's a little over your budget you might consider a "Feel the Bern" fanny pack, to help store all those government freebies you'll get from Bernie…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/feel-the-bern-fanny-pack


This is the only context in which you'll ever want to hear "feel the burn" and "fanny" in the same sentence.

And finally, from front-runner Joe Biden, we have this fine "Women's Fitted Biden Polo." Which is just about the best polo description ever…


https://store.joebiden.com/collections/apparel/products/biden-polo-womens-fit


It promises the kind of snug approach that Biden loves to provide women. Even when they don't ask.

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.