Larry Jefferson has been putting on a big red suit and perfecting his best ho, ho, ho for nearly 20 years.
The retired Army captain plays Santa at shopping malls, holiday parties and charity benefits. He hit the big time this year when he was handpicked at a Santa convention to appear at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
And by all accounts, kids and parents at the mall loved him. But when the story spread online, the negative attacks starting pouring in — because Jefferson is black.
Jefferson says the online negativity didn't surprise him — "because of the times in which we are living in" — but, he adds, "that backlash was only a small percentage."
For Santa Larry, as he likes to be called, playing Santa pretty much seems to be his calling in life. "That's what all my friends are telling me, despite what the mean-spirited Grinch people are saying online," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "They're going to get coal ... for sure."
Click on the audio button to hear the full interview.