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WSJ: ‘Health Agency Halts Coronavirus Ad Campaign, Leaving Santa Claus in the Cold’

Julie Wernau, James V. Grimaldi, and Stephanie Armour, reporting not for The Onion, I swear, but for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

A federal health agency halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.

As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday the Santa plan would be scrapped. The deal was the brainchild of the official, Michael Caputo, an HHS assistant secretary, who took a 60-day medical leave last month. […]

Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news “extremely disappointing,” adding: “This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen.”

“I can handle things. I’m smart. Not like everybody says, like dumb. We’re not going to use just any Santas. Fuck those guys with the fake beards! No one’s gonna take a vaccine from them! We’re going straight to the Santas with real beards. Santas people can trust. I’m smart and I want respect!” —“Fredo” Caputo

Sunday, 25 October 2020