WaPo Files Countersuit Against Nick Sandmann

News: Commentary
by Bruce Walker  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 12, 2019   

Media outfit refuses to acknowledge it's violating basic journalistic standards

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The Washington Post fired back at Nick Sandmann's legal team this week with a motion to dismiss the $250 million defamation lawsuit filed by the young man's attorneys. Sandmann alleges the newspaper printed false and defamatory articles about him in the aftermath of the Jan. 18 incident that took place on the Washington Mall.

On that day, Covington Catholic High School students from Kentucky — including Sandmann — were depicted initially by many media outlets as unruly, disrespectful and racist.

"This story was an emerging one," the Post's motion states. "No one could possibly have understood the initial article as having told the whole story."

That claim disputes the February suit filed by Sandmann's lawyers, which identifies seven stories published in The Washington Post resulted in "permanent harm" to the 16-year-old's reputation and generated "severe emotional distress" over his personal safety and claimed the paper violated "basic journalistic standards."

Tellingly, the newspaper filed its countersuit to dismiss in Washington, D.C. rather than in Kentucky where Sandmann's attorneys sued The Washington Post as well as CNN and several other media outlets.

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The lawsuits stem from the media depiction of Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High School peers' interaction with Native American activist Nathan Phillips.

Phillips at first claimed he confronted the young men out of concern for the safety of several African-American members of the radical fringe group Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI). The boys endured insults from the BHI members — insults including "racists," "bigots," "white crackers," "incest kids" and other unprintable epithets.

"They also taunted an African-American student from my school by telling him that we would 'harvest his organs,'" recollected Sandmann.

Phillips walked into the melee beating a ceremonial drum, claiming later he was attempting to deescalate the situation between BHI and the Covington students. He also claimed he was concerned more for the safety of the BHI members, although video footage of the confrontation contradicts Phillips' assertion as the Covington students cannot be observed objectively as aggressors.

Tellingly, the newspaper filed its countersuit to dismiss in Washington, D.C. rather than in Kentucky where Sandmann's attorneys sued The Washington Post.

The subsequently released footage also contradicts the media narrative that Sandmann arrogantly stood his ground in front of Phillips. Instead, he was attempting to smile politely at the man who was loudly chanting and banging a drum in close proximity to Sandmann's face.

Media reports immediately following the incident made prominent mention that Sandmann and several of his classmates were wearing Make America Great Again ball caps, a staple of President Donald Trump's campaign and rallies.

The Washington Post's Richard Leiby reported:

The articles cited in the Sandmann suit, which was filed on his behalf by his parents, "may not have been flattering of the Covington Catholic students" who were caught up in disparate marches that day, "but they do not give rise to a defamation claim by Sandmann," says the paper's motion, filed in U.S. District Court in Covington. "Indeed, the Post's overall coverage — including the articles that the Complaint fails to mention — was not only accurate; it was ultimately favorable to him."

Writing in the American Thinker, Bruce Thompson notes The Washington Post is seeking a more favorable venue by filing its countersuit in a federal court in Washington rather than Kentucky:

WaPo has filed its response in federal court in Washington D.C. (a.k.a., "The Swamp"). Sandmann's complaint was filed in state court in Kentucky. That suggests they think they have a better defense under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in Washington than they do under the state defamation laws in Kentucky. Ordinarily, a defendant would file their response in the same court that the plaintiff filed his complaint. We can expect a bit of dispute about the proper venue for the dispute. We can also assume that WaPo's highly paid lawyers will enjoy the "billable hours."

The Washington Post's motion to dismiss also states it did nothing wrong in reporting only Nathan Phillips' side of the story: "That man [re: Phillips] was entitled to offer his subjective point of view, and the Post had a right to report it — as it had a right to report the initial condemnation of the students' behavior by the responsible diocesan and school officials."

As noted above, had journalistic due diligence been performed by Washington Post reporters, Phillips' assertions to the press would have been revealed as untrue. Had they took convenient shortcuts rather than waited until they possessed more facts, the Post journalists would have spared the Nick Sandmann and his Covington classmates from personal threats and the condemnation of their own school and archdiocese.

Writing for PJ Media, Jim Treacher observed the Post writers abdicated journalistic responsibilities: "All they had to do was look at that evil red baseball cap, and they knew everything they needed to know about him. It was too good to check, so they didn't. And now they want everybody to forget about it."

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