FOREST CITY, N.C. – The North Carolina Santa Claus accused of fat-shaming a young boy has been hospitalized and supporters say it’s because of a broken heart.
WLOS reported that Earl Crowder has served as a Santa in the Forest City community for more than a decade.
But he recently found himself in a controversy after allegedly telling a 9-year-old boy to, “Lay off the hamburgers and French fries.”
Crowder has been in the hospital since Wednesday, shortly after the “Bad Santa” story started going viral.
"He woke up having trouble breathing and ended up having to go the hospital, and he's still there," says Kelly Butler, who is Crowder's niece.
She said he has a blood clot in his lung to go with a broken heart following the controversy.
Butler said being accused of being a “Bat Santa” made Crowder a sad Santa.
"He was very heartbroken," Butler said. "In fact, his first thoughts, he wanted to cut his hair and shave his beard."
The local Kris Kringle resigned over a firestorm after the Mayse family claimed he fat-shamed 9-year-old Anthony.
Crowder assumed his jovial role in Forest City 12 years ago. He replaced the previous Santa, who was arrested for inappropriately touching a little girl.
"They won't ever have another Santa Claus like him," said one local supporter of Crowder’s. "He not only looks like Santa, but his heart is Santa Claus.”