A federal judge in Kentucky has ruled in favor of The Washington Post and against Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann over the paper’s mishandling of the January confrontation by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington with Native American activist Nathan Phillips. Leftists made a viral video claiming Sandmann was somehow mocking Phillips by standing still and smirking.
Federal judge William O. Bertlesman showed some sympathy for what happened to Sandmann:
“The Court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not to impede or block anyone. However, Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being ‘blocked’ and not allowed to ‘retreat.’ He passed these conclusions on to The Post. They may have been erroneous, but as discussed above, they are opinion protected by the First Amendment. And The Post is not liable for publishing these opinions.”
This is standard First Amendment stuff: the Post is free to report false things to please their liberal readers, and claim that they’re the truth. But the Post‘s statement after the victory was obnoxious. “From our first story on this incident to our last, we sought to report fairly and accurately the facts that could be established from available evidence, the perspectives of all of the participants, and the comments of the responsible church and school officials.”
This is not true in the slightest. We gave the Post a grade of “Ugly” for its reporting:
On Sunday, the paper published a very one-sided article on the front of the Metro section based only on the Native American activist’s lies about being “surrounded” by the Covington kids. The headline was “Marcher’s accost [sic] by boys in MAGA caps draws ire.” On Sunday, the paper also published a nasty blog post on “The Catholic Church’s shameful history of Native American abuses.”
By Monday, the paper’s article on the top left of the front page was headlined “Fuller view emerges of conflict on Mall.” But a few paragraphs of testimony of “smirking” Covington student Nick Sandmann (beginning inside the paper on page A-15) was vastly outnumbered by Phillips, the Black Hebrew Israelites, and left-wing activists, including Women’s March participant Jessica Travis (who claimed “The kids really went into a mob mentality”) and Nathaniel Dimof, who launched a parody page on Facebook called “Covington Catholic White Male Entitlement High School.”
Sandmann’s parents said that they plan to appeal the decision. “I believe fighting for justice for my son and family is of vital national importance,” Ted Sandmann told the Post. “If what was done to Nicholas is not legally actionable, then no one is safe.”
Nick Sandmann may not have been in danger at that viral moment….but the frenzy of MAGA-hat hate that followed was certainly more threatening, and of course, the danger that smears of Sandmann’s reputation could hurt his attempts to get into college and so on are very real.
“The law must protect innocent minors targeted by journalists publishing click-bait sensationalized news,” Todd McMurtry, co-counsel for the Sandmann family, said in the statement. “This is especially true in the current hyper-partisan political environment.”