Just Asking Questions

Benjamin Radford


Q: “I enjoyed your recent investigation into the 2016 Mall of America’s black Santa outrage, and I have a question regarding ‘asking questions.’ How do you tell the difference between someone with a genuine inquiry about something and an ideologue attempting to steer the debate in a specific direction?”

—Al C.

A: I received this query in response to my research into an ugly episode of racial hatred that tainted the 2016 holiday season. The Mall of America hired a jolly bearded man named Larry Jefferson as one of its Santas. Jefferson, a retired Army veteran, was the mall’s first African American Santa, and the local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, carried a story about it on December 1. Later that night an editorial page editor for the Tribune, Scott Gillespie, tweeted: “Looks like we had to turn comments off on story about Mall of America’s first black Santa. Merry Christmas everyone!”

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