Fake News: Mall Santa Was NOT Arrested For Making Kids Touch His Genitals

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fake News: Mall Santa Was NOT Arrested For Making Kids Touch His Genitals

Was a mall Santa Claus arrested for making his touch his genitals, which were allegedly coated in sugar and painted like a candy cane? No, that's not true: The story was fabricated by a Canadian entertainment website that publishes fictional stories about bizarre crimes, weird sexual acts, and other made-up events. The photo accompanying the story was lifted from a completely different news story.

The claim originated from an article (archived here) published by World News Daily Report on December 11, 2019, under the title "MALL SANTA ARRESTED FOR MAKING KIDS TOUCH AND LICK HIS ERECT PENIS COATED IN SUGAR AND PAINTED LIKE CANDY CANE." It opened:

An Arkansas mall Santa was arrested this week after allegedly enticing dozens of underage children to touch his genitals.

Little Rock Police Officers responded to the vicinity of Park Plaza Mall for a report of an intoxicated man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit within the mall who was allegedly touching children in an inappropriate manner.

Several shoppers complained to the police that their children were invited by the mall Santa to grab a piece of candy cane inside his trousers while sitting on his lap and in plain sight.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

The story is completely fabricated and featured made-up names and details. A "reverse image search" shows the photo is actually of James Larkin, the co-founder of Backpage.com, a classified advertising site accused of running ads for prostitution and other sexual services. Larkin, along with six other co-defendants, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The website World News Daily Report is a humor website specialized in posting hoaxes and made-up stories. The disclaimer on their website is pretty clear about that, but users have to scroll down the page to find it:

World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website - even those based on real people - are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.

On March 20, 2019, the site added a new header that included the slogan "Where facts don't matter" to make it clearer to casual visitors the published content is fictional:


The site often uses images stolen without attribution from real news websites, sometimes showing real people who have nothing to do with the story. For example:

Woman Says Newborn Photo Stolen for Satirical Fake News Story

It is run by Janick Murray-Hall and Olivier Legault, who also run the satirical Journal de Mourréal, a website spoofing the (real) Journal de Montéal. Very often, their stories feature an image showing a random mugshot found in an online gallery or a stock photo website superimposed over a background of flashing police lights or crime scene tape.

Articles from the site are frequently copied (sometimes even months or years later) by various fake news websites that omit the satire disclaimer and present the information as real.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes worldnewsdailyreport.com as:

A website that publishes hoaxes and made-up stories that are often widely shared and mistaken for news.

According to NewsGuard, the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about worldnewsdailyreport.com before. Here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Read more about or contact Ryan Cooper

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