Family sues Washington Post for false article

28 Feb

Armed with a “Make America Great Again” hat and a smile, high schooler Nicholas Sandmann was assumed to have confronted and bullied an adult at the National Mall.

On January 18, 2019, Nicholas Sandmann went on a school trip to the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. Sandmann and the rest of the students from Covington Catholic High School traveled to the city to participate in the March for Life. While waiting for the bus at the end of the day, these teenagers came in contact with Nathan Phillips, who was in D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples March the same day.

Someone took a video of the interaction, and the Washington Post quickly wrote and published seven articles about the scene. The Post assumed that Sandmann intentionally encountered Phillips and stood there with a “smirk” to intimidate and disrespect the man. Phillips was beating a drum and chanting while maintaining eye contact with the boy. The Post’s articles were written to cast a negative view onto the student, claiming he instigated the standoff with Phillips. Twitter and other social media platforms were able to spread the Post’s story, and followers could instantly see and comment on the biased article.

Now the parents of the Catholic high school student are suing the Washington Post for $250 million, the same amount that Jeffrey Bezos bought the company for in 2013.

The suit alleges that the Post was careless enough to post an article that blatantly defames Sandmann.  The law suit also states:

  • The Post sourced its only information from a video found on a fake Twitter account
  • The Post did not complete a thorough investigation of the incident, yet it posted false and disrespectful comments regarding Sandmann
  • Phillips, the man beating the drum and shouting, was actually the one who went up to the group of Catholic students and confronted them
  • The Post rushed to publish the article that bullies Sandmann and led to attacks and threats against the 16-year-old boy
  • The Post published the article to show distaste for Trump and his followers, turning the incident into a political scandal

L. Lin Wood, a well-experienced attorney, is fighting for the Sandmann family throughout this trial, and more civil lawsuits are expected to be filed and pursued. The Post stated that they plan to stand firm in a defense in this case.

The First Amendment gives the people and the press the right to free speech, so the press is not subject to censorship by the government. This allows the Washington Post to have a lot of freedom when publishing articles, and this newspaper, known for being more liberal, can do so in a protected manner. The problem with the Sandmann piece, though, is the defamation and blatant falsehood in question.

Journalists are definitely protected by the First Amendment, but they, like everyone else in America, cannot publish or post pieces that destroy the reputation of an individual based on false evidence. Libel and slander are not protected, so the suit against the Washington Post is built on a solid ground.

This high school boy should not have been put through such threatening situations after the Post’s article was published. The Post wanted to get their piece out quicker than other news companies, so there was no solid investigation or care for an accurate story. The boy’s reputation is tainted now, and the posts will forever remain on the internet. A suit of $250 million may seem like the family is asking for too much, but this Post incident has truly ruined Sandmann’s life right now.

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