March 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – On Monday, attorneys representing Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann said that they will “double down” in their lawsuit against the Washington Post for its failure to apologize for erroneous coverage that led to mischaracterizations and death threats against their client.
On Friday, the Washington Post issued an editor’s note regarding its coverage of the incident in which students from Covington Catholic High School were confronted by Native American activist and leftist Nathan Phillips following the 2019 March for Life.
The note came after the newspaper was hit with a $250 million lawsuit by attorneys L. Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry, who are representing Sandmann, the Covington student who was subjected to death threats after erroneous reports about his role in the incident went viral.
Sandmann became the subject of false accusations of racism after a selectively edited video emerged from the confrontation that purported to show the Covington boys harassing Phillips. Sandmann was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) cap; some media reports incorrectly said the Covington boys were chanting “build the wall.” Additional video footage soon debunked that narrative. It revealed that Phillips had approached the boys and beaten his drum inches from Sandmann’s face, and other adults were shouting racial taunts and insults at the kids. The teens did not return the abuse in kind, and were chanting school cheers to drown out the harassment as they waited for their bus to pick them up.
The Washington Post nevertheless ran with the original narrative depicting Sandmann and his classmates as the racist agitators, something Sandmann’s lawsuit says the newspaper did as part of its “war against the president.” The newspaper ran seven articles smearing Sandmann and containing defamatory and false information, his attorneys contend.
A Washington Post article first posted online on Jan. 19 reported on a Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial. Subsequent reporting, a student’s statement and additional video allow for a more complete assessment of what occurred, either contradicting or failing to confirm accounts provided in that story — including that Native American activist Nathan Phillips was prevented by one student from moving on, that his group had been taunted by the students in the lead-up to the encounter, and that the students were trying to instigate a conflict. The high school student facing Phillips issued a statement contradicting his account; the bishop in Covington, Ky., apologized for the statement condemning the students; and an investigation conducted for the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School found the students’ accounts consistent with videos. Subsequent Post coverage, including video, reported these developments: “Viral standoff between a tribal elder and a high schooler is more complicated than it first seemed”; “Kentucky bishop apologizes to Covington Catholic students, says he expects their exoneration”; “Investigation finds no evidence of ‘racist or offensive statements’ in Mall incident.”
A Jan. 22 correction to the original story reads: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that Native American activist Nathan Phillips fought in the Vietnam War. Phillips said he served in the U.S. Marines but was never deployed to Vietnam.
The newspaper did not, however, offer a retraction or an apology for its coverage.
According to the Monday release by Sandmann’s attorneys, the Washington Post “rushed to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies who falsely attacked, vilified and threatened” their 16-year-old client. The release stated that the editor’s note and an attorney’s letter “were too little and too late.” The Post’s efforts served to “whitewash its wrongdoing,” Sandmann’s lawyers said, and were “untimely,” “grossly insufficient,” and perpetuated “lies that will haunt and adversely impact Nicholas for the rest of his life.”
The attorneys said that the despite the Post’s claim of having “provided accurate coverage,” the paper “made no effort to retract and correct the lies it published.”
“The Post did not have the integrity to unequivocally admit its negligent and reckless violations of fundamental journalistic standards documented by its complete failure to investigate the incident…before publishing lies about a child,” they said. Slamming the paper for its failure to apologize to Sandmann, the release noted that the Post had first deleted a “false and defamatory” tweet about him, but then re-posted the tweet so that “its lies will also forever remain available on the Internet and in social media.”
Saying that the paper has not learned its lesson, Sandmann’s attorneys said that because the Post has “doubled down on its lies,” they too will “double down” and continue to hold the newspaper accountable in a court of law.
The Post has issued an Editor’s Note about updates to its initial coverage of the Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial: https://t.co/rhzKZ1715K
We’ve also deleted this Jan. 19 tweet in light of later developments. For more, see the Editor’s Note. pic.twitter.com/O7qCSnBMPO
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 1, 2019
Wood tweeted on Saturday, “Washington Post offers neither retraction nor apology. Failure to admit and correct its reckless and false reporting only perpetuates lies published in its original stories. Bullies always run from accountability. Post is running from truth and hiding behind legal posturing. Cowardly.”
Washington Post offers neither retraction nor apology. Failure to admit & correct its reckless & false reporting only perpetuates lies published in its original stories. Bullies always run from accountability. Post is running from truth & hiding behind legal posturing. Cowardly.
— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) March 2, 2019
The controversy brought about a national debate over journalistic standards and “fake news,” as well as racism and support for President Trump. When news about the lawsuit against the Washington Post emerged, President Trump posted his support on Twitter, writing on Feb. 20: “Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick,” and adding: “Fake News!”
Guiding principle of journalism is accuracy. “Get it right.” When mistakes are made, accuracy demands nothing less than unequivocal retraction. When innocent child is attacked by false reporting, decency also demands an apology. Where is your retraction & apology Washington Post?
— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) March 2, 2019