Parents of Teen MAGA Supporter Sue Washington Post for $250 Million for Targeting Teen

28 Feb

By: Jentzen Kowcheck

Are civil lawsuits under The First Amendment often aggressively pushed by law or from attention in the media?

On February 20, 2019 at the Lincoln Memorial, a Kentucky teen participated in a viral encounter with Native American activist, Nathan Phillips at a March for Life anti-abortion rally.

The parents of this teenager, Sandmann, pushed for a lawsuit for “False and Defamatory Accusations negligently and with actual knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth”. According to news and video footage, this incident created a nation-wide controversy and threatened Sandmann’s life. According to KTLA The lawsuit claims that the Post “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicolas because he was white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again cap on a school field trip to the march in Washington, D.C. However, Covington Catholic High School apologized for students’ treatment toward the Native American and threatened expulsions. The apology stated, “the behavior is opposed to the church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.”

The Washington Post did what any other news outlet would have done, created a story. However, it is to be considered bias journalism for not getting the full story and sharing details about what truly happened that day. The protection of the First Amendment does not always correlate with the legal landscape of journalism

Videos of the confrontation between the two went viral on platforms such as Twitter and Youtube. As soon as this case went viral, people from all over were commenting on this issue. From just seeing the video footage, it appeared that Sandmann was being disrespectful toward this Native American Veteran. There was no reason for Sandmann to be what seemed to be “poking fun” toward Phillips. From viewing the video it did look bad and disrespectful. For the Catholic high school to feel the need to apologize, it obviously was disrespectful and reflected poorly on the school. So, was Sandmann actually sorry? What was intended in this confrontation?

People posed tweets casting death threats and harsh words toward this Kentucky teen. However, According to Inside Edition, Sandmann wishes he ‘walked away’ from Native American. Sandmann speaks out saying he wasn’t being disrespectful toward Mr. Phillips and that he respects him and would like to talk to him. However, even on the interview it seemed like Sandmann had strict orders on what to say and what not to say. He appeared to be very nervous and stone-faced when interviewers asked what had really happened. 

Both parties have been interviewed of what really went on at the Lincoln Memorial that day in January. Was the teen targeted because of manipulation in the media for not portraying the “full story”? Or, is the minor just saying what he is told to say on national television and interviews by lawmakers? These questions test legal and ethical landscapes of The First Amendment. We are entitled to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, the right to petition the government. All of which are relevant in this case. So, although one may speak on his or her behalf, defamation is still exists here.

So now what will happen? Since the Post failed to conduct a proper investigation before publishing false defamatory statements, Sandmann’s family will continue with the lawsuit against The Washington Post and sue for $250 Million.

 

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