After conveniently falling ill the night after she assured the many children watching Fox News that both Santa and Jesus are white, on Friday Megyn Kelly said she was just kidding. Bill O'Reilly chimed with his own defense on Monday night, saying, "In this case Ms. Kelly was correct. Santa was a white person." However, no one should feel alienated just because the imaginary character is irrefutably light-skinned. "The spirit of Santa transcends all racial boundaries," he said. "It's a spirit based on generosity, kindness to children, and magical moments." So why all the controversy? O'Reilly explained, "for those who despise the Fox News Channel, there's nothing magical about anything we do here."
The "white Santa" kerfuffle is a new peak in a War on Christmas that's been raging in the media for the past nine years. As Daniel Denvir explains in Politico's history of the annual showdown, the modern incarnation can be traced back to Dec. 7, 2004, when The O'Reilly Factor aired its first "Christmas Under Siege" segment. "All over the country, Christmas is taking flak," O’Reilly said, citing the lack of religious floats in Denver's holiday parade, Mayor Bloomberg's unveiling of a "holiday tree," and Macy's dropping the greeting "Merry Christmas."
The idea was picked up by other right-leaning pundits, and gave birth to a holiday tradition. Fox News sounds the alarm about the demise of the most popular holiday in America, liberal outlets like The Daily Show laugh at conservatives for being "ignorant and provincial hicks," and Fox News cites their mockery as evidence that they're being persecuted for embracing traditional symbols of the holiday. Denvir notes that regardless of their political affiliation, the exercise is "a gift to busy news producers trying to fill the airwaves."
What's different this year is that with "white Santa" being pitted against "black Santa" (or maybe penguins) we finally have a clear visual representation of the ridiculous controversy. (When Kenan Thompson appeared on "Weekend Update" in a Santa suit, it was obvious SNL was taking aim at Fox News. A Bloomberg impersonator holding a tree needs some explanation.) If the symbol sticks, some day we'll be telling our grandkids what it was like before people dressed up as White Santa and headed to the mall to shout at store clerks who say "Happy Holidays."