Officials from the U.K.’s National Health Service have apologized for a controversial ad featuring Santa Claus desperately sick with COVID-19 that angered some parents.
The public service announcement, which was yanked from YouTube, featured a gravely ill man with a white beard being rushed into the emergency room of an NHS hospital. He’s clearly in distress and cared for by a crew of caring professionals.
The mystery man eventually bounces back to (apparent) sleigh-riding recovery, and his nurse discovers he’s St. Nick.
The video, entitled “The Gift,” was produced for the NHS Charities Together organization, which raises funds for nonprofits that support the health system. The PSA was intended to attract donations and as a homage to health care workers and volunteers who toil amid the pandemic to save — in this case — Santa and Christmas.
“Give back to those who give everything” is the tagline of the video.
The ad initially drew some praise, with The Daily Mail calling it “touching” and “heartwarming,” but the newspaper also described it as the “nightmare before Christmas.”
People commenting on social media were disturbed by the images of a seriously ill Santa and concerned about the video’s impact on children:
After a building storm of criticism, the spot was scrubbed last week. Officials apologized for the video and said it wasn’t “aimed at children and hasn’t been shown on TV.”
“We are sorry to the parents of any young children who have been upset by watching the ad and to the young children themselves,” the officials stated. “They were not the intended audience for it.”
Check out the video above.
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