Nicholas Sandmann—the teenager from Covington High School who unwittingly became a focal point of controversy last month when various celebrities, pundits and media outlets decided to turn him into a symbol of white supremacist bigotry—has filed a defamation suit against the Washington Post, in what his attorney has promised is just the first of many legal actions he will pursue:
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, 16, seeks $250 million in damages, the amount that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and the world’s richest person, paid for the Post in 2013.
You really gotta hand it to the kid’s lawyer, demanding the same amount of cash Bezos coughed up to buy the paper. This guy is such a smooth operator, he could give Barry White a run for his money. “That’s right, baby. I wanna run my fingers through your schadenfreude. Mmmmm, so good. Right there…”
Um, where was I again? Ah, yes—lawsuit!
The lawsuit claims that the newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied” the teen to advance its bias against President Donald Trump because Sandmann is a white Catholic who wore a Make America Great Again souvenir cap on a school field trip to the March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18.
Otherwise known one of those stories that’s simply too good to check—even though checking would have only required watching other videos of the incident, rather than just the snippet posted by the social justice mobs on Twitter. Alas, this would have required reporters to spend a whole forty-five minutes or so combing through widely-available footage on the internet, all while sitting on their butts munching on whatever Uber Eats delivered that evening.
Too much legwork for this generation of journalists, I guess.
The Washington Post’s Vice President for Communications Kristine Coratti Kelly said: “We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit and we plan to mount a vigorous defense.”
Can’t wait to see what that defense might be, cuz I’m sure it’ll be a hoot. “Well, your honor, we could have actually performed some due diligence on the story before running with the whole ‘Racist, punchable, MAGA hat wearing, teen beneficiaries of white male privilege hassle innocent Native American drummer peacefully minding his own business—but those Twitter takes were just so hot, we had to pile on while the topic was still trending. Hashtag amirite?”
In a more serious vein, I don’t think Sandman’s lawyer will get too far with the claim that WaPo targeted his client because he’s a white, Catholic Trump supporter. If I had to guess, he tossed in that part to rally support among those who hate the media—which is a good move P.R. wise, even if the legal value is negligible.
On the other hand, the harm suffered by Sandmann and his fellow Covington students because of the way the media portrayed this encounter is quite tangible. Their names got plastered all over the internet. Their families received death threats. Even after being vindicated, the kids face the real prospect that colleges and future employers might choose to blackball them over the incident. This kind of thing can follow people around for the rest of their lives, and short of changing their names and identities they may never be able to get past it.
All because the media wanted to advance a narrative, and didn’t much care about the collateral damage.
Well, as WaPo may find out the hard way, that collateral damage may include them. It’s one thing to run scurrilous stories on politicians and other people who seek the public eye, because that’s the price you pay for having a public life. Everybody who wants that knows what they’re getting into. For private citizens, however, the standard is different. The Covington kids didn’t ask to be thrust into the spotlight—and they shouldn’t have been made to prove their innocence before an outrage mob whipped up by their media accusers.
As that media seems reluctant to self-correct, it seems that the only way they’ll ever change is if somebody hits them back just as hard—and in a place where it really hurts. Toward that end, I wish Nick Sandmann the best if luck. Hopefully, if he succeeds, the American media will take its obligations to the truth more seriously.