that happened

The Time Trump Asked a 7-Year-Old About Her ‘Marginal’ Belief in Santa

Ho, ho, ho. Photo-Illustration: Stevie Remsberg. Photos: Getty Images

The Trump era has been defined in large part by its everyday surreality. As we approach January 20, we’re looking back on some strange but perhaps lesser-remembered moments from the last few weird years.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the White House, the president of the United States was asking a 7-year-old believer in Santa Claus if her faith was in doubt.

The child, a girl named Collman Lloyd from South Carolina, had called in to NORAD’s Santa-tracking program on Christmas Eve 2018, hoping to get more information on Santa’s location during his yearly infringement on U.S. airspace. Instead, after six minutes on hold, Lloyd was, against the odds, patched through to the president. Trump kept up normal kid banter for about 30 seconds, then went for the jugular. “Are you still a believer in Santa?” he asked with glee in his voice. “Because at 7 it’s marginal, right?”

The call was very much in keeping with Trump’s brand of semi-accidental humor — an audio sequel to President Drives Big Truck and President Yells at Boy on Lawn. (In this case, he was more in on the joke than usual.) It was also illustrative of how comically ill-suited his personality is for the holiday season. At its best, Christmas is all about surrounding yourself with loved ones, and the spirit of giving. This sort of thing seems difficult for a man whose relationships tend toward the transactional, and who is uncomfortable engaging in discussions that do not eventually turn to the subject of himself. The holidays are also associated with children, with whom Trump is not exactly a natural. Even when he tried to approximate normalcy, he couldn’t quite avoid potentially crushing a little girl’s dream.

Trump hates holiday parties, and Melania once vented to a friend by asking, “Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff,” so at first glance it’s a little odd that Christmas would loom so large in the First Couple’s mythos. But Melania, despite her misgivings, expended a lot of effort turning the White House into a winter carnival of horrors. And the president has famously gone to great lengths to defend Americans’ rights to say “merry Christmas,” which was definitely in danger of being taken away before 2016. Notably, Trump did not invoke the phrase in his call with Lloyd, merely wishing her a “happy Christmas” when he hung up. Despite the president’s unsolicited dose of reality, it appears she had one.

The Time Trump Asked About a Girl’s ‘Marginal’ Santa Belief