A Georgia man says he was fired from his job as a shopping mall’s Santa Claus after a manager complained about his wearing of a pro-Trump hat.
“It really was an innocent thing. It really was,” Frank Skinner, a supporter of President Donald Trump who has nearly five decades of experience as a mall Santa, told First Coast News.
Skinner, who worked at the Mall at Waycross Shopping Center, shared a post to Facebook on Tuesday describing his account of the controversy.
He said he put on the hat while the mall was closing and no children were nearby. Someone snapped a photo, which he uploaded to his Facebook account “for laughs.”
Skinner believes someone saw the photo and passed it along to mall management and the media.
According to a post shared by Skinner on Facebook, mall management initially told him they’d received a request for him to stop wearing the Trump hat.
First Coast News contacted the mall and asked for a statement.
“The statement the mall received claimed I would be replaced and from that point on this all became a massive controversy,” Skinner said in the Facebook post.
“When I spoke to the Mall management they advised me that I would be removed from rotation for a few days to investigate. Then I read the statement made by the Mall Management to the news and gathered I had actually been fired,” he added.
Skinner said he is “still waiting for an official communication.”
“Together we trying to discern what’s appropriate going forward. There has been no official action at this point,” Skinner said.
“I just felt like my constitutional rights were being taken away,” he told First Coast News.
Skinner has received an outpouring of support from members of the public who believe his support of the president should be uncontroversial.
I would like to address the truth as to what happened at the Mall of Waycross concerning me and the photo taken with a…
“This is a disgrace. Any citizen should be allowed to support the current president and leader of the country. All future Santas must supply and display their voter registration card. Anyone labeled liberal or Democrat is automatically disqualified as it hateful against America,” said one commenter replying to a post on Skinner’s Facebook page.
Skinner said he “in no way meant to cause anyone discomfort” by wearing the hat.
“Obviously it did offend some folks. I can assure everyone that was not my intent. I have learned a lot from this. Going forward I will keep this in mind,” he said.
Skinner also apologized to RCG Ventures, the real estate company that owns the Mall at Waycross.
“[I]n closing lets all remember this is the Christmas Season lets put aside our differences and LET’S CELEBRATE IN KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS !!!!” Skinner said in his Facebook post.
Pluralist reached out to Skinner for comment via Facebook but did not receive an immediate reply.