The parents of Collman Lloyd — the 7-year-old girl from Lexington, South Carolina, whose phone call with President Trump on Christmas Eve went viral after he asked her if she still believes in Santa Claus and then said, “At 7 it’s marginal, right?” — said they have no issue with how Trump spoke to their daughter.
In fact, dad Donald J. Lloyd, 40 (who, as it happens, shares a first name and middle initial with the president), told BuzzFeed News he would have used similar language with his daughter, and that he thinks the remark is being blown out of proportion and unfairly politicized.
“I think it’s crazy it became a big deal. It’s Christmastime. I’d love to keep politics out of Christmas,” said Donald. “It didn’t bother me — I like to talk to my kids like adults.”
Collman’s mom, Erica, 40, agreed. She added that she found Trump to be extremely generous.
“I’m a teacher. I’m OK with the vocabulary,” said Erica, who teaches third-grade students. “He was very kind. I was very impressed with the phone call.”
(Collman Lloyd was first identified and interviewed by the Post and Courier newspaper).
On Monday night, Collman placed a call to the North American Aerospace Defense Command after Erica heard from a fellow teacher that NORAD staff will chat with young children about where Santa Claus is located each year.
It’s also a tradition for the president to answer some of these phone calls from children, as President Trump and first lady Melania did on Christmas Eve in front of the media.
The conversation between Trump and Collman, however, went viral when a clip began spreading online of the president inferring Santa may not be real, and stating that it was “marginal” whether Collman would still believe so.
Many people were irked by how Trump broached the topic with a child, with some accusing him of “ruining Christmas” for Collman.
But Erica and Donald told BuzzFeed News they experienced the phone call, which lasted over six minutes, completely differently on their end. They said they were at first “in shock” that their daughter was on an actual call with the president because they assumed it would be a prerecorded message.
“Don and I looked at each other and said surely this is a recorded message,” said Erica, describing the moment a NORAD scientist asked the family if they could be placed on a brief hold to connect them with Trump.
When they heard Trump address their daughter by her first name, they realized Trump was actually on the other end. “We were in shock, we really thought it was a recorded message,” she said.
Both Erica and Donald said they found the phone call to be nothing but congenial. “He said, ‘Happy Christmas ... It was great speaking to you, Collman … Please tell [your family] I wish them a happy Christmas,’” Erica said.
“It made her Christmas,” she added.
Collman told BuzzFeed News she was “feeling kind of excited and just, like, shocked” that she got to speak with President Trump. “I thought he would have plans on Christmas Eve.”
Erica and Donald said Trump’s question about believing in Santa, and his “marginal” comment, went completely over their daughter’s head. And they’re not at all concerned that it may have planted doubt in her belief in the Christmas figure. (A video clip the family sent the Post and Courier on Tuesday shows Collman nodding along and responding “Yes, sir” to Trump’s question.)
Collman also confirmed to BuzzFeed News that she had no idea what the president was trying to say in that moment — and she still has no idea what “marginal” means.
When asked what she thought he might have meant, Collman said, “He used it with ‘Santa,’ so maybe it has something to do with Christmas?”
And, yes, the 7-year-old still believes in Santa.
Her father did admit he was a bit confused by the president’s language.
“The way he used it ... I’m not sure exactly what he meant by it. It’s an interesting use of language,” said Donald. “That conversation was a tad awkward over the rest, but I didn’t have an issue with any of that.”
Online, some made jokes and inferences about the parents’ political affiliations, but Erica and Donald declined to disclose that information, saying they believed that to be “irrelevant” to the phone call.
When asked what it meant to them to have their family speak directly to Trump, Erica said the moment “meant a lot to her and the family.”
She added that it will be a moment her daughter “will never forget.”