The Mall of America’s announcement of its first ever black Santa Clause was met with acclaim, until the racist backlash began.
The mall announced last week it had employed Larry Jefferson to work as a Santa for four days a week, in a move that was supposed to let children know that “Santa comes in many different colors”.
He is the first black man to work as Santa in the Minnesota mall’s 24-year history.
People on Twitter initially reacted positively despite many pointing out there was nothing revolutionary about non-White mall Santas.
It is not even a new job for Mr Jefferson - the retired US Army veteran has been donning his Father Christmas gear since 1999.
But shortly afterwards the Mall of America's announcement, a torrent of racist abuse came, forcing one newspaper to shut down its comments on the story.
“Looks like we had to turn comments off on story about Mall of America's first black Santa. Merry Christmas everyone!” Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie wrote.
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“I bet he climbs down chimneys and steals people’s presents,” John Eden said in a comment reported by WCCO.
“Stupid. Incredibly stupid. Santa is WHITE. BOYCOTT Mall of America. Maybe they should change their name to MALL of RAGHEAD LAND,” wrote a man called Peter Morgan.
Another user called Mr Jefferson’s new job an atrocity, and accused people of African descent of cannibalism.
One user accused CNN of racism for daring to report the story at all. Others insisted Santa was a German character and it was therefore racist for him to be depicted as non-white.
Looks like we had to turn comments off on story about Mall of America's first black Santa. Merry Christmas everyone!https://t.co/BQVm24DH6y— Scott Gillespie (@stribgillespie) December 2, 2016
Speaking to the Washington Post last week, Mr Jefferson said he believed there should be many more racially diverse Fathers Christmas.
“There needs to be more Santas of color, because this is America, and kids need to see a Santa that looks like them,” he told the paper.
“That helps kids to identify with the love and spirit of the holiday.”
The racial identity of the fictitious Christmas character has been a vexing issue for many Americans for several years, most notably Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly, who stoked controversy in 2013 by moving to clear up any confusion.
“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” she said.
“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change."