President Trump To 7-Year-Old: 'Are You Still A Believer In Santa?' The president relishes speaking off the cuff, but on Christmas Eve it may have led to a regretful blunder when he insinuated a girl was too old to believe Santa is real.
NPR logo President Trump To 7-Year-Old: 'Are You Still A Believer In Santa?'

President Trump To 7-Year-Old: 'Are You Still A Believer In Santa?'

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump speak on the phone sharing updates to track Santa's movements from the NORAD Santa tracker on Christmas Eve. Jacquelyn Martin/AP hide caption

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Jacquelyn Martin/AP

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump speak on the phone sharing updates to track Santa's movements from the NORAD Santa tracker on Christmas Eve.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Updated at 1 a.m. Dec. 26

The setting was perfect. The fire was beautifully ablaze, the trees enormously enormous, as the first couple sat beside dainty telephone tables ready to delight young callers in search of Santa.

But what happened next could be considered less than perfect — especially for a young girl named Collman or her family, who might have had some explaining to do after the brief phone call.

Collman and the president had been connected through NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which on Christmas Eve is tasked with tracking Santa's movements as he delivers gifts around the world. (It is still operating despite the partial government shutdown.)

Since 1955, because of a serendipitous error, NORAD has kept tabs on the big guy in red. And in recent years, some children calling the where's-Santa-now hotline have been treated to a one-on-one conversation with the first lady or leader of the free world, who usually dispenses good cheer and happy holiday wishes.

The president's delight in speaking extemporaneously is well-known, but it seems to go best when it's in front of large crowds of adult supporters.

A few seconds into the chat with Collman, Trump asked: "You doing well in school? ... What are you going to do for Christmas? ... Are you still a believer in Santa?"

Naturally, the incident was captured on video as well as the moment that followed:

"Because at 7 it's marginal, right?" Trump asked the child.

It's unclear how Collman responded or if she knows the meaning of the word marginal. The girl's side of the conversation was muted. But Trump appeared unfazed by the possibility he might have just told a child that Santa Claus doesn't exist.

After a brief pause, Trump chuckled for a second and said, "Well, you just enjoy yourself."

A 2011 survey by The Associated Press found average Americans say they continued to believe in Santa until they were nearly 9 years old.

And as far as parenting tips on how to initiate what could be difficult conversations with children about Santa, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, there's little evidence that they should be introduced by the president.

By the end of the phone call, Trump had returned to more traditional conversational fare, telling Collman, "Well, honey, happy Christmas."

Correction Dec. 26, 2018

The Associated Press corrected information that was used in this report. The child is a girl named Collman, not a boy named Coleman.