Mall Santa Apologizes After Being Fired For Wearing Trump Hat While On Duty: 'I Thought It Was Harmless Fun'

A Georgia man has apologized after he was fired for wearing a hat supporting President Donald Trump while working as a Santa at a Georgia mall.

Frank Skinner has played Santa at The Mall at Waycross Shopping Center in Waycross, Georgia, for the past 14 years, First Coast News reported. But Skinner recently sparked controversy after a picture that showed him wearing a Trump 2020 hat with his Santa costume during his shift started circulating on Facebook.

The mall's manager said he became aware of the picture after it was sent to him on social media on Friday. "Can Santa pleas (sic) not wear a Trump hat?" someone who had seen Skinner's picture wrote in a message on Facebook, WTSP reported.

Mall management responded to apologize to the complainant and said they would be "addressing this right away" as the mall "does not support any specific political party."

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"It was done completely without our knowledge," mall manager James White told First Coast News. "It's safe to say he will not be wearing this hat around here. This particular Santa has been replaced." Newsweek has contacted White for additional comment.

Skinner apologized for the picture in a lengthy post on his Facebook page, where he often shares pro-Trump posts, saying "it's never Santa's job to bring politics into the fray" and that he didn't intend to "create a firestorm."

Skinner maintained that the mall was about to close and no children were around when he decided to switch his Santa hat for a Trump hat and pose for a picture "for fun."

He wrote: "It was about time to close at the mall for Santa. There were no children around and on a whim I decided to switch hats and pose with a President Trump hat. For fun, I took the picture for personal use, with my personal phone. Later, for laughs, I posted it on my personal Facebook page."

He added that he didn't intend to offend anyone with the picture. "At the time I thought it was harmless fun," he wrote. "Now I realize in this day and age that I should not have posted it. Obviously it did offend some folks. I can assure everyone that was not my intent. I have learned a lot from this."

Skinner said he believes someone spotted the picture on his Facebook page and shared a screenshot with mall management. He said he was told by management that he would be removed from the rotation of Santas while the matter was investigated—but then learned through media reports that he had been fired.

Skinner also said he would be happy return the money raised through a GoFundMe page created for him by a friend. The fundraising page has amassed $1,000 in the week since it was set up.

"This was done in kindness by a friend who knew how important my job as Santa actually is to me financially," he wrote. "I have no problem returning the money to anyone who contributed." Newsweek contacted Skinner for additional comment.

Stock photo: Santa takes a breather as children wait to meet him at the Westfield Shopping Mall in Arcadia, California. A mall Santa in Georgia was fired after a picture of him in a Trump hat sparked controversy. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images