The Washington Post has settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a teenager Nicholas Sandmann, who was mistakenly referred to as a racist who aggressively attacked a senior Native American activist with his high school class during a visit to the Lincoln Memorial. The misrepresentation of the incident has been widespread in the media. He has been attacked in networks like MSNBC and CNN, as well as in newspapers like the Post. He sued the Washington Post for $ 250 million, but the terms of the deal have not been released.
The then 16-year-old Sandmann was accused by CNN and other bodies of harassing activist Nathan Phillips. Students denied the allegation, but many media reported attacks on the student as a racist Trump supporter who abused an older Native American. Video footage showed that the Covington students were harassed.
When Sandmann's attorney agreed to the deal, he said his client "agreed to accept the mail because the post quickly published the whole truth – through their tracking and the editor's notes." This is still not the case with many who viciously attacked this teenager.
We previously discussed the case and example of such a segment that Above the Law writer Joe Patrice was involved in in his interview with The Nation's Elie Mystal. In the interview, Mystal, the editor-in-chief of "Above the Law", attacked this 16-year-old old boy as a racist. Patrice agreed with Mystal's objection to Sandmann, who was wearing his "racist (MAGA) hat". They also declined to have Sandmann interviewed to defend themselves with Mystal, and mocked how this "17-year-old boy defends George Zimmerman because he was denied access to a colored person". Aside from the fact that Sandmann did not deny "access to a colored person," Mystal and Patrice compared this student to a man accused of murdering an unarmed African American child, and even attacked his efforts to get his name as The media continued to call him a racist. It was typical of much of today's angry comment. These two writers had no concerns about attacking a child as a racist in the national media while abusing him for trying to defend his reputation. It was the popular thing to pile up Sandmann. It was only a means of releasing anger without the burden of reason or research.
Many writers who have joined the mob attacking Sandmann have never apologized. They simply moved on to the next target to be declared a racist in a summary media judgment.
In fact, Mystal continued to beat up Sandmann in posts about "Above the Law." In one such post, Mystal partially wrote:
On the heels of Clarence Thomas, who wishes he could rewrite the First Amendment to simplify the filing of the lawsuit, we are given an insight into the dystopian future. A team of lawyers has filed a $ 250 million defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post on behalf of Nick Sandmann and his family.
The suit claims that after his encounter with Nathan Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial, a lot of bad things happened. It is not claimed that there was no encounter before the Lincoln Memorial, or that the encounter was recorded on video. Since truth is a defense against any defamation lawsuit, it would be surprising if the lawsuit survives an application for dismissal.
I generally don't like lawsuits against the media, which often try to punish good writers or reporters for playing an important role in our constitutional system. I have repeatedly criticized President Trump for attacks on the media, his lawsuits, and attempts to change the defamation rules. This is the essence of the Supreme Court's reasons for protection, which the New York Times falsified against Sullivan when he created the actual standard of malice for civil servants. The first change requires “breathing space” to fully protect our constitutional values. Conversely, there is a need for media accountability. The lawsuits like Sandmann's can play an important role in strengthening the most basic requirements of journalism. It was never about whether there was an "encounter" at Lincoln Memorials. Such "encounters" take place constantly in Washington. This encounter became the focus of overwhelming national reporting, allegedly showing a Trump supporter in a MAGA hat abusing an older Native American.
The lawsuit against the post office was resumed after the court resolved claims that were arguable as opposed to factual statements. The court focused on factual claims that Sandmann "blocked" Phillips and other factual questions that were allowed to be discovered. The rest of the lawsuit was previously dismissed. Some lawsuits continue to go to trial.
I am happy that the matter has been resolved and we have avoided the potential for negative precedent against journalists. However, there are worrying ethical issues. The feeling of total abandonment in such false reports is itself a danger to good journalism. We have recently seen how even famous newspapers like the New York Times have given in to the echo-journalistic model. The echo in Sandmann's story was ruining a teenager in the national media for something he didn't do. However, wearing a MAGA hat was enough evidence to defame him and mark him as a racist.