White Christian male high school students from flyover country were brutally smeared by a biased media over an encounter with a calculating Native American activist after the March for Life in January. Leading the way in irresponsibility was The Washington Post, which covered the incident like a hysterical social media account instead of a sober-minded newspaper devoted to reporting the facts.
The paper has earned a well-deserved $250 million lawsuit for its shameful actions. Nicholas Sandmann is the boy who was singled out by The Post as the face of white-privileged racism for merely standing impassively as veteran protester Nathan Phillips beat a tribal drum inches away from his face in an apparent attempt to stage a confrontation with the Kentucky youths. Twitter erupted after the airing of a short video clip of the interaction that played to progressive fantasies of proud minorities besieged by ruthless bigots in Make America Great Again hats. As social media devotees are so fond of doing, they jumped the gun.
Anatomy of a Smear
They weren’t alone. Instead of taking a levelheaded approach to the moment, The Washington Post ran with the howling mob. Now faced with a lawsuit, the paper is attempting to cover its tracks. It issued a tepid “Editor’s Note” on March 1 stating that “[s]ubsequent 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 its original reporting.
It remains to be seen how the lack of humility displayed by The Post’s editorial staff works out as a legal defense, but as a basic journalistic explanation for what transpired, it is woefully inadequate. The Post adamantly refuses to concede that it hastily fell sway to an emotion-driven, knee-jerk narrative in its initial coverage that literally threatened the physical well being of an innocent teenager.
The undeniable, easily proven fact is that this professional newspaper chose to frame a canned drama of the thoroughly phony affair. In an article that contained an interview with Phillips, the paper disgracefully wrote:
“A Native American man steadily beats his drum at the tail end of Friday’s Indigenous Peoples March while singing a song of unity urging participants to ‘be strong’ against the ravages of colonialism that include police brutality, poor access to health care and the ill effects of climate change on reservations.
“Surrounding him are a throng of young, mostly white teenage boys, several wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ caps. One stood about a foot from the drummer’s face wearing a relentless smirk.”
This deliberate manipulation of the truth did not come without consequences. Sandmann became one of the most hated people in America among a certain swath of the population that unquestioningly accepts loaded progressive media chronicling.
The Post’s tweet of the article containing the “relentless smirk” prose generated violent responses from those people:
I never spanked my kids. I want to slap this one.
— Jodi Jacobson (@jljacobson) January 19, 2019
My inner spirit is less tolerant.
— marvC = [IMMC] (@marvc88) January 19, 2019
Shortly thereafter, as criticism mounted in the light of clearer heads viewing the entire video and discerning the truth, something The Post refused to do before diving into its initial coverage, the backpedaling began. In no way, however, did The Post acknowledge its own missteps.
“The incident, and the finger-pointing that followed, seemed to capture the worst of America at a moment of extreme political polarization, as discourse once again gave way to division, and people drew conclusions on social media before all the facts were known,” the paper reported on Jan. 22.
A Fake News Bridge Too Far?
Yes, indeed, people did draw conclusions without regard to the facts. Sadly, several of those people were ensconced in The Post’s newsroom cubicles. As a result, one legal professional believes Sandmann has an excellent chance of winning his lawsuit.
“The Post showed a reckless disregard of the truth when it portrayed the boys as Trumpian bullies, when in fact, the reality was much more complicated,” Robert Precht, former assistant dean of the University of Michigan Law School who once served as a public defender, told TheWrap. “The kids can easily show damage to their reputations caused by the firestorm of condemnations by public figures and social media posts.”
This is the only way to combat biased fake news media that place ideology over factual reporting. The Post may very well have finally overreached by pointing its yellow guns at a harmless high schooler.
“I predict the case will settle long before trial with The Post apologizing and paying millions of dollars in damages,” Precht told TheWrap. “This is not a case The Post would ever want to take to trial before a jury. The optics of an elitist Eastern paper going after Midwest farm boys would not play well to a jury.”