FOREST CITY, N.C. – The North Carolina Santa Claus some people have accused of fat-shaming a young boy is in the hospital.
His niece says he there, in part, due to a broken heart.
Earl Crowder has served as a Santa in the Forest City community for more than a decade according to WLOS.
Ashley Mayse says she and her son, 9-year-old Anthony, were just enjoying a holiday event in town, getting their Christmas spirit on, when a Santa went rogue and gave Anthony a very un-merry jab.
“When he got done, he said, ‘Lay off the hamburgers and french fries,'” he told WLOS. “And that really just disrespected me, and I felt awful.”
Crowder has been in the hospital since Wednesday, shortly after the story went viral.
“He woke up having trouble breathing and ended up having to go the hospital, and he’s still there,” says Kelly Butler, who is Crowder’s niece.
She says he has a blood clot in his lung to go with a broken heart following the controversy.
Butler said being accused of being a “Bad Santa” made Crowder a sad Santa.
“He was very heartbroken,” Butler said. “In fact, his first thoughts, he wanted to cut his hair and shave his beard.”
Crowder assumed his jovial role in Forest City 12 years ago.
He replaced the previous Santa, who was arrested for inappropriately touching a little girl.
“They won’t ever have another Santa Claus like him,” said one local supporter of Crowder’s. “He not only looks like Santa, but his heart is Santa Claus.”
Crowder said he is no longer one of Santa’s helpers.