NBC Decries Megyn Kelly Saying Santa is White; Ignored Bashir Wanting Palin to be Defecated On

Teasing an upcoming story on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer fretted over "the emotional debate ignited by a Fox News anchor over Santa's true race," referring to FNC host Megyn Kelly saying that Santa Claus is white. Minutes later, news reader Natalie Morales promoted the same segment by proclaiming: "Why St. Nick has suddenly become the most controversial figure of the season." [Listen to the audio]

In the report that followed, correspondent Kristen Welker declared: "This debate is focused on Santa Claus, but really it's about a much larger issue in this country – the issue of race. And it all started when a popular cable news anchor declared Santa is white....Words that got her on the naughty list of some news organizations, pundits, and late-night comedians."

While NBC was eager to place Kelly on the "naughty list" for her description of the physical appearance of a fictional character, the same network censored any mention of its own cable news host – MSNBC's Martin Bashir – calling for Sarah Palin to defecated on. Bashir later resigned as a result of the disgusting attack.

On Monday, Welker sympathetically noted that the supposed Santa controversy "started when African American blogger Aisha Harris wrote a column last week on Slate.com arguing Santa should be a penguin instead of a white man, insisting the switch 'could spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame' that she remembers from childhood."

Kelly's comments were a reaction to that argument.

After noting that Kelly said her remarks were tongue-in-cheek, Welker exclaimed that Harris "doesn't buy it." Harris ranted: "I didn't feel as if she was joking or kidding, it felt like, honestly, she was sort of angry about the fact that I suggested that he couldn't be white."

Welker wrung her hands over the depiction of a white Santa: "It's not just the Fox flap, a high school teacher in New Mexico was recently disciplined for telling this black student Santa is white. Both incidents underscoring just how prevalent the imagine of a Caucasian Santa continues to be."

Here is a full transcript of Welker's December 16 report:

7:20AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: The emotional debate ignited by a Fox News anchor over Santa's true race.

7:31AM ET TEASE:

NATALIE MORALES: Meanwhile, coming up, what does Santa Claus look like? Does his race matter? Why St. Nick has suddenly become the most controversial figure of the season.

7:39AM ET TEASE:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The newly kindled debate coming up over Santa's race.

7:44AM ET SEGMENT:

LAUER: And we're back now at 7:44 with a Christmas controversy tied to Santa Claus. What does he really look like? NBC's Kristen Welker has more on that. Kristen, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Santa Claus Controversy; Debate Grows Over Santa is White Comments]

KRISTEN WELKER: Matt, good morning to you. This debate is focused on Santa Claus, but really it's about a much larger issue in this country – the issue of race. And it all started when a popular cable news anchor declared Santa is white.

Santa Claus is coming to town and on a lot of kids' minds. But now, Kris Kringle is at the center of a heated debate, which started when African American blogger Aisha Harris wrote a column last week on Slate.com arguing Santa should be a penguin instead of a white man, insisting the switch "could spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame" that she remembers from childhood.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly seized on the comments last Wednesday.

MEGYN KELLY: This is so ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa, you know? And by the way for all of you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.

WELKER: Words that got her on the naughty list of some news organizations, pundits, and late-night comedians.

KENAN THOMPSON [DRESSED AS SANTA ON SNL]: Well here's a secret for you, I'm black as hell.

WELKER: On Friday, Kelly responded, saying her initial words were tongue-in-cheek.

KELLY: Race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country and Fox News and yours truly are big targets for many people.

WELKER: Harris says she doesn't buy it.

AISHA HARRIS: I didn't feel as if she was joking or kidding, it felt like, honestly, she was sort of angry about the fact that I suggested that he couldn't be white.

WELKER: It's not just the Fox flap, a high school teacher in New Mexico was recently disciplined for telling this black student Santa is white. Both incidents underscoring just how prevalent the imagine of a Caucasian Santa continues to be.

But at this Los Angeles mall, old St. Nick is Latino and African American. Diversity that makes a difference to these parents.

GEOFF BARNABELL [PARENT]: We hear there's like a Korean Santa and a Hispanic Santa. So we want every year for Jones to take a photo with different Santas so he knows that there's all kinds of people in the world.

RAVEN DANIELS [PARENT]: It matters only because the books and TV, you know, they show it as being one race. So I want him to be able to see, you know, that there is more than one.

WELKER: NBC News contacted Fox News for comment and they declined, saying that Kelly had already responded to the criticism. Matt.

LAUER: Alright, Kristen Welker. Kristen, thank you very much.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.