I'm actually kind of stunned that this story has had such legs. After all, we're talking about a mythological figure. It's a little like arguing what color fur a unicorn has.
Ironically, this is the first year that we've openly acknowledged that Santa is not real; my youngest figured out that there were some pretty substantial disparities in the various legends surrounding him.
Santa Claus is a Dutch corruption of Saint Nikolaos, a fourth-century saint from the Mediterranean coast of Anatolia in what is now Turkey. He was also known as Nikolaos Thaumaturge, the master magician.
Eastern Orthodox icons of St. Nicholas (the Latin form of the name) often depict him as dark-skinned, to show his Mediterranean origins.
As David Roediger argued, the American term “white” was deployed by middle and upper class Protestants of northern European origin to demarcate themselves not only from African-Americans but from working class Catholics such as the Irish and from the wave of immigrants 1880-1924 from southern and eastern Europe, including Lebanese, Italians, Greeks, Poles and Jews. The US actually had a Chinese Exclusion Act, and in the hysteria running up to the enactment of racist immigration laws in 1924, some newspapers accused the Lebanese and Syrians of being Asiatic and in the same category therefore as the Chinese and equally undesirable. Only gradually did the Catholic immigrants become accepted as “white.”
Insofar as St. Nicholas was a Greek speaker from Asia Minor in what is now Turkey– and therefore like the Greek and Syrian Eastern Orthodox Christians– he certainly could have faced racial prejudice in early twentieth century America.
The jolly round elf that we know Santa Claus is a 19th century creation inspired by Clement Moore's poem and oddly, Coca Cola ads. The Sinterklaas and Father Christmas figures of Europe were lean, austere men, often in bishop regalia.
But maybe global mythology is too academic and wonky for your average Fox News viewer (who are by and large, white, male seniors with little interest in other sources nor in having a correct grasp on issues of the day), but it doesn't make it less true.
But as new permanent host for Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter, suggests, maybe it's because Megyn Kelly was focusing on her demographics that little things like historical accuracy or racial sensitivity didn't come into play.
STELTER: You know, to tell you what I think for a minute, I kind of wonder if FOX had a different audience demographic, if she would have commented differently about Santa. You know, data from 2012 shows that about 1.4 percent of FOX's prime time audience is African- American. If that was 24 percent, I'm wondering if she would have said something differently.
But, of course, that's not something we can know.
Oh Brian, I think we do.