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We Asked Santa Which Celebrities and Politicians Are on This Year's Naughty List

According to a professional Santa we consulted, coal is now too expensive to give to naughty children—but Donald Trump would get a stocking full of it if it weren't.

Zing Tsjeng

Zing Tsjeng

All photos by Christopher Bethell

Ah, Christmas: The most wonderful time of the year, when families gather around the dinner table to come together in the spirit of Yuletide joy and fight with each other about everything that happened earlier in the year.

Does your racist uncle harbor a hard-on for Vice President-Elect Mike Pence? Did your younger sister come back from her first semester at a liberal arts college arguing that Hillary would have done just as bad a job as Trump? Instead of getting involved in a Christmas screaming match with your Republican family members over contentious cultural and political figures, I decided to settle the debate once and for all by asking someone who definitely knows who's been naughty or nice: Santa Claus.

I meet Father Christmas in the plush lobby of the Rosewood Hotel in London, courtesy of a professional agency called Hire Santa. I'd confirmed our meeting earlier that day by saying I was looking forward to it; he'd texted back with: "Me too! #hohoho." That message alone was enough to strike fear into the heart of someone like me, who had only recently graduated from the naughty step of childhood and onto the grown-up plinth of being a terrible adult.

Read more: How a Juggalo Commune Saved Christmas

When I pitched this article, my editor wrote back, "Please make sure this is an official Santa!" I have to confess initially that I had no idea what makes Santas more legit than others. But as Father Christmas walked through the hotel reception, wrapped in his red, velvet-y suit and his beard the color of freshly fallen snow, I knew. On a Christmas scale of zero to ten, with zero being a wheezing shopping mall impersonator with a stick-on beard and booze breath, and ten being the literal embodiment of the Christmas spirit, this Santa was the full-on, ho-ho-ho-ing real deal.

As I sat with him in a quiet corridor of the Rosewood, interrupted only by the warm, flickering lamplight and occasional demands from hotel guests and their screaming children for selfies, even my emaciated, Grinch-like heart began expanding with Christmas cheer and goodwill towards all men. Obviously, I had to immediately ruin this by showing Santa pictures of Donald Trump.

All photos by Christopher Bethell

Donald Trump

BROADLY: I know you only give presents to little boys and girls. But I just wanted to ask you which grownups deserve presents or lumps of coal... Like Trump.
Santa: Younger children sometimes do naughty things because they want attention. It's very tricky with the naughty list. Trump, for instance, he's on the naughty list. Now that he's president, he's being deliberately antagonistic about some things because he's sort of proved his point. Now he just seems to be deliberately naughty.

How many lumps of coal would you give him? Do you still even give lumps of coal?
Well, I tend not to give lumps of coal. To be quite honest, the way things are these days, it's cheaper to give someone a present than someone a lump of coal because fuel is so expensive.

Do you think there's a way he could ever get on the nice list?
I'm sure he could. Time will tell, because he may do good things while he is in office. It's like anyone else—politicians try to break these promises and have no intention to keep these promises in the first place. It's really difficult with adults because they seem to have their own agenda, especially when it comes to politics. A lot of them are career politicians and will say whatever they need to get higher up. And then there are other politicians that work really hard for their people and constituencies.

Santa's verdict: Naughty

Justin Bieber

Santa: He's not on the naughty list. But he's on the idiot list, at the top of it.

I didn't realize Santa had so many subsidiary lists.
Yes, I do. It's because there are so many shades of grey—not like the book, obviously.

Santa's verdict: Not naughty, nor nice, but an idiot

Hillary Clinton

Santa: The trouble with Hillary Clinton, she has done things she knew she shouldn't do and then tried to cover it up... I do feel for America, because they didn't have a good choice, did they? To narrow it down to those two is completely bewildering to everyone. Everyone has gone: How has this happened?

What kind of things do you think she has done wrong and tried to cover up?
Well, all the emails and things like that. People don't like corruption in politics, and it might be that these emails meant nothing at all, but [if] you know what the rules are and you break them and try to cover them up, it's not very honest. What people want is honest politicians, whatever country they're in.

So dishonesty gets people on the naughty list?
Of course. But because she is a career politician, she looks to serve herself first and she thinks she is the best for America. Who knows—she might have been right, only time will tell. But it's not good when you have so many skeletons in the closet. It's such a shame because I'm sure [she and Donald Trump were] both thoroughly decent people, but the election was nasty.

Santa's verdict: Naughty

Kylie Jenner

Santa: Another one [who's] not really naughty not nice. [She's] just playing the game. You know, the thing is, if they didn't play this fame game they would be forgotten about already. A lot of people have 15 minutes of fame, [but] these people are extending it to provoke publicity. Not naughty, again, sometimes they do things that are a bit silly.

Santa's verdict: Not naughty, nor nice, but a bit silly

Nigel Farage

Santa: Nigel Farage—he deliberately does things to be naughty. Because he knows that if he gets a reaction, he will get more publicity. All these people are intelligent, but sometimes it's just for headlines; they're deliberately naughty and say things to upset other people. When you do that you end up on the naughty list.

So it's the intention behind an act that gets you on the naughty list?
It's always the intention. It's like children: If they know what they are doing is naughty and they carry on, then that makes the behavior naughty. It's not the child itself that is [naughty], it's the behavior.

Santa's verdict: Naughty

Barack Obama

BROADLY: What do you make of Obama?
Santa: Oh, Obama is definitely on the nice list. Yes absolutely. If you look at what he did, there has been no corruption while he has been in office. There have been no cover-ups, he has done really well, even though he hasn't achieved what he promised. But it's not his fault—he was stopped by Congress. Yes, I have a lot of time for Obama

What present does Obama deserve?
Goodness me...

A long holiday?
Yes, he does.

Santa's verdict: Nice

Taylor Swift

What about Taylor Swift? A lot of people didn't like her romance with Tom Hiddleston. People were saying it was fake...
Santa: It's a tricky one because [celebrities are] under so much scrutiny. The thing is, who is wrong here? It's the public buying these magazines that want to know everything she wants. If she's manipulating the situation, that's not naughty. She's just trying to present herself in the best possible light [by] making headlines with these show-mance. I don't really have much sympathy with the public because they're wanting this, they're soaking it up.

Santa's verdict: Not naughty, nor nice

Cher

Speaking of "making headlines," what about Cher? She's very good at making headlines with her tweets.
Santa: Cher has been in show business for so long now, I admire her that she's still relevant. It's a tricky game to play. You know all these celebrities are sort of make these statements and they can be quite controversial but really that's what the media has created with these people—wanting the next headline, wanting. If Cher has something that needs promoting, all she needs to do is go on Twitter and say something and then she's on the news. It's a game.

Santa's verdict: Not naughty, nor nice

Mike Pence

What about Mike Pence? People don't like him because he's tried to take away healthcare rights from women, like abortion.
Santa: When you deliberately try to take something away from people, then [your] intentions aren't good. I don't see how that will benefit anyone, taking anything away from women, so I'd like to have a chat with him to be honest... I think there are people that are going to be in politics shortly that do things deliberately controversial because they can and I think Pence is going to do as many as he can just to sort of prove a point. I would put him on the naughty list; he is certainly edging that way. I'm hoping for better things.

Santa's verdict: Naughty

Lin Manuel-Miranda

Do you know who Lin Manuel-Miranda is? He's written a musical called Hamilton, which some people find annoying. Does that get you on the naughty list?
Santa: It doesn't... You are always going to annoy someone. There's always someone annoyed somewhere about everything that is going on. For the people that don't like it, just don't watch it. It's that easy. If you know what it's about and it's going to offend you, then don't go to see the show.

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Does he end up on the nice list for making something that makes some people happy?
Yes. Again, it's about the intention. He has obviously come up with this musical and wants it to be joyous and entertaining. And by doing that he has annoyed quite a few people. It's the people who get annoyed far too easily and upset far too easily that get on the naughty list. It's like, "Take a deep breath and enjoy life, stop going for the negative all the time!"

Santa's verdict: Nice

Zayn Malik

Santa: He's still very young, so we make allowances—he's at the age where everyone makes mistakes. The difference is, a camera is watching his every move and for others at his age that doesn't happen. It's [a] very difficult and cruel business and he's making mistakes—and he will make mistakes—like all of One Direction are going to do at one stage. It's how you deal with those mistakes that shows what kind of person you are.

Santa's verdict: Neither naughty, nor nice