It may be the most wonderful time of year, but one mall Santa isn’t celebrating — he was fired from his job for wearing a hat that supports President Donald Trump. The popular red MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat landed Santa himself on the naughty list — and led to an empty Christmas throne in the Waycross Georgia shopping mall.
Frank Skinner has portrayed Santa for over a decade. For the past 14 years, he has greeted children at the Mall at Waycross Shopping Center in Waycross Georgia. That changed, though, when Skinner donned a MAGA hat for a photo at closing time – the picture, which shows a Trump 2020 logo, began making the rounds on Facebook shortly thereafter.
According to Skinner, the photo was taken at closing time, when no children were present and Santa’s duties were done. The team was closing up the North Pole when he removed his traditional hat and swapped it out for the photo. The picture quickly went viral in the local area, and the mall’s manager was sent a copy just a day later. The message?
“Can Santa pleas (sic) not wear a Trump hat?” someone who had seen Skinner’s picture wrote in a message on Facebook, according to a local television station.
The mall was swift to respond, apologizing for the picture and saying they would be addressing the issue “right away”.
“It was done completely without our knowledge,” mall manager James White told First Coast News. “It’s safe to say he will not be wearing this hat around here. This particular Santa has been replaced.”
Skinner was also quick to apologize on his own Facebook page, stating “it’s never Santa’s job to bring politics into the fray” and that he didn’t intend to “create a firestorm.”
He also reminded readers that the mall was closing at the time, so no customers or children were present when the photo was taken.
“It was about time to close at the mall for Santa. There where no children around and on a whim I decided to switch hats and pose with a President Trump hat,” he said. “For fun, I took the picture for personal use, with my personal phone. Later, for laughs, I posted it on my personal Facebook page. I certainly was not trying to create a firestorm by doing that but simply intended to post the photo on my page for a little humor, as I have many friends & family who like me, support our president. I knew they would enjoy the photo and get a laugh. Obviously, that turned out to be poor judgment on my part. I didn’t anticipate how upsetting that would be to some members of our community. For that I’m deeply saddened and apologize.”
He had shared the image himself, on his on private Facebook page, to friends and family.
“Unfortunately, after posting the photo someone went to my personal Facebook page and took a screen shot to use and report,” he continued. “I don’t know the exact actions taken by that community member from that point, on, but somehow the Mall management received a request for the removal of my trump hat, (request sent out of context as if I wear it all day) & First Coast News received the photo as well. The news contacted the mall management for a statement. The statement the mall received claimed I would be replaced and from that point on this all became a massive controversy.
Despite his apology, Skinner lost his red suit and beard, and will presumably be replaced by a more progressive Santa in the future.