Nick Sandmann's Attorney Has Harsh Words For the Washington Post's Laughable Apology

Image by Don Hinchcliffe via Flickr Creative Commons License:

Image by Don Hinchcliffe via Flickr Creative Commons License:

In January, a group of Catholic high school students were the victim of a vicious, racist bit of theater perpetrated by a Stolen Valor grifter and “Native American elder” named Nathan Phillips. The students had been under a barrage of verbal harassment by an SPLC-labled “hate group” called the Black Hebrew Israelites as they were waiting for their bus at the Lincoln Memorial. Nathan Phillips, who’d made a career out of claiming to be a USMC Vietnam veteran while leeching from various “indigenous peoples” groups decided to wade into the group of high school students and create a racially charged incident…probably because they were wearing MAGA hats they’d bought from a street vendor during the March for Life.

This story was like catnip to the left, to the media, and to stump-broke conservatives who live to be praised by the left as reasonable. By the end of the day, long before the cock had crowed three times, their own bishop had disowned them and the young man in center of the storm, Nick Sandmann, was being personally vilified by Twitter blue-checkmark reporters, politicians, editorial pages, and late-night television eunuchs.

As they say, a lie travels half way around the world before the truth can sober up and find its pants…or something like that. Eventually, the facts began to seep out and nearly exactly one month after the fact the definitive story came out: New Video Shows Just How Wrong The Left And Anti-Trump Pundits Got The Case Of The Covington Kids.

The video in that last post was prepared by Nick Sandmann’s attorney who, in short order, announced he was considering filing lawsuits against north of 50 people and media outlets involved in the slandering of Nick Sandmann and he was starting with a $250 million lawsuit against one of the most egregious offenders, the Washington Post.

Today, the Washington Post responded with an “Editor’s note.

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.

And they followed up on Twitter:

This was not only the worst sort of sorry-not-sorry apology, it is also factually incorrect. Phillips did state in a CNN interview that he fought in the Vietnam War. Not only is the Post trying to avoid owning its egregious role in bullying a 16-year-old but it is trying to sanitize Nathan Phillips’s lies.

To make matters worse, the Post’s spokesman defended the coverage:

In a statement to Reason, Washington Post Vice President for Communications Kristine Corrati Kelly told me, “While we do not accept the characterizations and contentions regarding our reporting of the incident at the Lincoln Memorial, we have taken steps to address the concerns expressed to us.”

“The full story did not emerge all at once and throughout our coverage, we sought to produce accurate reports,” said Coratti Kelly. “Even the comments of the school and church officials changed, and The Post provided ongoing coverage of the conflicting versions of this event and its aftermath, giving prominent attention to the student’s account and the investigative findings supporting it. We thus have provided a fair and accurate historical record of how this incident unfolded.”

To add further insult, the Post put the apology behind a paywall.

Nick Sandmann’s legal team was not impressed.

“What The Washington Post put out is barely worth comment,” Todd McMurtry, an attorney for Sandmann, told Reason. “WaPo committed gross journalistic malpractice and cannot undo its deeds with an editor’s note that purports to correct the record over a month after it led a frenzied mob in trashing a minor’s reputation. The Sandmanns would never accept half of a half-measure from an organization that still refuses to own up to its error.”

The Washington Post seems to be in actual legal peril here. The rule established by the US Supreme Court in New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan would clearly make Sandmann a “non-public” figure unless the Post argues that Sandmann became a public figure based on the Post’s grossly negligent reporting. It is difficult to see what the Post hopes to accomplish by this. As an apology or admission of error or an acceptance of responsibility for the actions of the paper and its staff, the statement is woefully deficient. Essentially disavowing the statement is not a sign of good faith. So, if this was a negotiating position, it is hardly a good one.

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