CNN Settles With Nick Sandmann

Nick Sandmann and CNN agreed today to a settlement in the teen’s defamation lawsuit as a result of the news media’s demonization of him and his fellow students after a videoed confrontation with Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, outside the Lincoln Memorial. Sandmann and his schoolmates had participated in the  March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the news media reported that the video showed boys wearing MAGA caps harassing Philips. Narrative: Racist young Trump supporters abuse an elderly Native American. Sandmann was singled out because a still photo appeared to show him smirking in a condescending manner at the  man.

Another video and eyewitness accounts demonstrated that Phillips was the obnoxious aggressor, pushing into the school group waiting for its bus and beating hisdrum inches from Sandmann’s face, while the boys were subjected to racist  taunts from members of the Black Hebrew Israelites.

Eventually some journalists and  public figures  had to recant their public characterization of Sandmann as a smug racist, but not before he had become a public villain. Even his school, acting solely on press reports, condemned him.  Some journalists refused to admit that they had been wrong–wearing a MAGA cap was proof enough of bad character— or that Sandmann and his friends had been wronged.

Sandman’s lawyer, L. Lin Wood,filed a $250 million suit against CNN for sending into “millions of homes” the “idea that [Sandmann] was part of a mob…yelling racist slurs.” Still pending are similar suits on Sandmann’s behalf against NBCUniversal and  the Washington Post.

I originally assumed that all of the defamation suits—there have been others brought on behalf of the other eight boys against Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Deb Haaland, CNN’s Ana Navarro, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, ABC News’s Matthew Dowd, ex-CNN personalities Kathy Griffin and Reza Aslan, Kentucky entrepreneur Adam Edelen, Princeton University’s Kevin Kruse, left-wing activist Shaun King, Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery, and Rewire editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson—were doomed to fall to First Amendment defenses. Indeed that was the original result of the Post lawsuit, but after initially being thrown out, the lawsuit was revived by the same judge, who ruled that discovery could proceed.

CNN apparently decided that a trial would prove embarrassing at a time when its news judgment and bias are already under justified attack. At this point, it is impossible to know how much money Sandmann received; typically CNN would not admit liability, and the plaintiff would be bound not to reveal the settlement terms. Still, this is not good news for the other defendants.

This episode epitomizes the deterioration of journalism ethics once the mainstream media decided to be affirmatively hostile to conservatives, their positions, and their institutions. Like previous examples, it was quickly subsumed by other stories, allowing the  biased and untrustworthy news organizations and their enablers to continue their role as a propaganda agents without serious consequences or even widespread comprehension of the betrayal of democracy underway.

I’m not optimistic that even if all the defendants in all of the law suits have to pay for their unethical conduct in the matter, it make a sufficiently deep wound in the power of these “enemies of the people” to manipulate public attitudes, in direct violation of their obligations to our democracy. Too few members of the public are attentive enough to see what is happening, especially because the news media is the primary messenger of the news of its own misconduct.

Just today, a Facebook friend who appears to be incapable of processing the mountains of evidence of mainstream news media bias posted this repugnant example of wilful disinformation in Forbes. Titled “10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts”—a title that announces its own bias, taking a swipe at President Trump by alluding to Kellyanne Conway’s infamous gaffe—the list is a head-exploder. The New York Times, #1. The Post, #3. With these two constant journalism ethics offenders at the top of the list, you can guess what the rest of the list is like.

I suspect that there will be more settlements for Sandmann and his fellow victims. Better to pay than let a trial expose how biased and corrupted these fake news purveyors  really are.

24 thoughts on “CNN Settles With Nick Sandmann

  1. GREAT news!

    I don’t which I’m more eagerly anticipating; Stelter mumbling his way through some soft-pedaling joke of a report, or the (heh!) Babylon Bee, who I pray will be merciless!

    WaPo? Yer up!

  2. The good news is that we may be able to figure out, within ballpark figures, how much CNN had to cough up, despite the “terms of settlement not disclosed.”

    There is precedent for that statement. Some may recall ABC’s reporting so-called “Pink Slime.” Its reporting was scurrilous. The company that developed the process for removing scrap meat from bone and rendering it suitable for human consumption sustained massive financial damage – and a metric shit-ton of job loss – as a result of ABC’s reporting. They sued for libel. The terms weren’t disclosed, but careful reading of their 10Ks indicated to some savvy analysts that the ‘special charges’ disclosed approached $100 million. Less that the company lost, but still appreciable.

    CNN is owned by AT&T. That might offer some insight.

    Owing to my career, I’m a careful student of news media world. I know how hard it is to prove libel, and as someone who believes in the wisdom of the Founders I’m glad it’s so tough. But I’m delighted that Sandman prevailed in this case. If ever there was an example of “reckless disregard for the truth,” this story is it. I hope this young man goes on to do great things, cushioned – one hopes – by the knowledge that he never has to worry where his next meal comes from.

    • One fact that helped him was that he was a minor at the time and these news agencies had to override their own policies on identifying minors. They have also been accused of doxxing the minor. I am sure they didn’t want the internal e-mails of the incident to be brought to light during discovery.

  3. A detailed and protracted trial exposing it all, like the one I am still hoping to see for Clapper, Brennan, Comey, Lynch, Clinton and (very hopefully) Obama would have been preferable.

    Like vampires preying on the Republic, the enemies of civilization need to be bleached in bright, glaring, hot sunshine. It’s the only prescription and deterrent we have to have an American future.

  4. It really makes me wonder that what would have to be turned over in discovery was the real cause of settling. I don’t think it’s the embarrassment of the trial that they’re worried about as you postulate Jack. Anyone’s opinion on CNN is firmly cast, just like nearly all political viewpoints today. No matter what they do, the left stands behind CNN and claims they are neutral arbiters of fact, meanwhile the right detests CNN as the propaganda wing of the democrat party. No trial is going to budge that opinion nor budge the opinion of Sandmann. Many on the left still view him as the evil racist instigator of the whole event.

    Instead, I think it was the CNN lawyers reviewing items found in preparation for turning over discovery and announcing what would end up released and that was the real cause of the settlement. I suspect the newsroom was abuzz with hatred conveyed spewing hatred of Sandmann and his classmates. Further, that since they’re in a bubble of like minded thinkers, the vile hatred of Sanmann was freely distributed in texts, instant messages and emails. I’m betting there is one or more messages that are like the Lisa Page / Peter Strzok texts that are incredibly damming of CNN and their outright hatred of anything on the right. One or more message that are in the impossible to spin category – they would try but it would be so transparent they don’t want to.

    • I suspect that discovery would unearth more than just hatred for Sandman. I expect an open airing of their internal documents would reveal the slanting of coverage and the suppression of inconvenient facts was knowing and willful.

  5. I haven’t posted this opinion online anywhere, but have had discussions with former colleagues. After 31 years of teaching, I recognize that look. Regardless of who was the “aggressor” here, I can’t tell you how many times I saw that look on the face of a high school-aged boy who knew he was doing something that he was getting away with. “I could move right now and change the situation, but I’m not going to.” And the look. I don’t want to argue the merits of the case or the left-wing liberal evil media or anything else. Every teacher of high school-aged males has seen that look, and this kid is a classic example. It’s the “I’m not touching youuuuu” look a kid might give a sibling when he has been told to leave said sibling alone and stop being annoying, but is now inches from their face. It’s the “I was here first and I don’t respect you or what you’re doing” look that could easily have turned into a “excuse me, I’ll step aside so you can do whatever weird thing you’re doing” action. Mr. Sandmann may have been in the right, but I believe his actions in the situation, and that look, heavily contributed. I hope that the 150 students that I traveled with to various places would know what I as a teacher would have expected them to do in this situation. And yes, that means, for the sake of the band, the school, the community, and even the state we were representing, you do not call attention to yourself like this whether you are in the right or not. Step away and we deal with it later.

    • My impression, when viewing the whole video sequence, is that the ‘look’ resulted from the still frame chosen. You can select out of a series of images one that when highlighted has a particular look. It seemed to me they selected and broadcast the look they ‘loved to hate’. There were dozens of different ‘looks’ on his face, and the boys surrounding him, as the event unfolded. Immature, uncomfortable, challenging, giddy, uncertain, curious, thrilled, scared: all of these.

      • Exactly. Criticism of “the look” or using it to justify criticism of Sandmann in any way is the essence of bias, and the fact that this frame was chosen to publish was a deliberate effort to attract antipathy. Not only does no one know what an expression means on an unfamiliar face, any look may be deceptive when caught on camera and frozen in time.

        And while freedom of speech may not be absolute, freedom of face is.

    • Mr. Sandmann may have been in the right, but I believe his actions in the situation, and that look, heavily contributed.

      We now know that Sandmann was in the right, and that any look of awkward teenaged defiance is explained by the fact that a known political agitator walked directly up to him, playing a drum and chanting, intending to produce footage which could be used to slander white, pro-life, MAGA-hat-wearing teenagers. The full sum of the material produced was a facial expression which can be correlated with teenaged defiance and placed in a foreign backdrop of disrespect, particularly when context is knowingly omitted by scheming propagandists. May Sandmann’s victories over his remaining enemies be complete. May their collisions in libel come to light. May their careers end in public disgrace. May those profits be reduced to ashes which are not laid at the feet of Sandmann the destroyer, divinely-chosen victim-conquerer, the slandered deliverer from the oppression of industrialized slander! May his wrath burn bright as the sun until, in the fullness of justice, his enemies lie at his feet, shattered like glass!

    • And yes, that means, for the sake of the band, the school, the community, and even the state we were representing, you do not call attention to yourself like this whether you are in the right or not. Step away and we deal with it later.

      What exactly would you have done “later” to “deal with it”?

      Because if you don’t have an answer to that, what you’re really saying is “don’t do anything that I can’t just sweep under the rug and forget about.”

      This reminds me of the attitude in my hometown, when a set of parents decided to go public about the bullying their teen had experienced (previously featured on Ethics Alarms here . How could you drag our name through the mud? Let us investigate! We’ll solve it later, but don’t embarrass us by making a thing of it.

      So, please, tell me: What would you have done to deal with the kids being accosted and bullied later?

      • Dealing with the situation later would most likely have included a discussion of what went wrong, why it went wrong, and a commendation for not escalating the situation. “Good for you for moving away from the situation so it didn’t get any worse. I’m sorry that guy and his group were being jerks to you, and I appreciate that you didn’t end up in a physical altercation. Live to fight another day, and learn from this experience. Not all of the people you will encounter are going to do what you want or expect, so sometimes you have to be the bigger person and let them be who they are and move on. That was an unwinnable situation, and I’m proud that you represented our group the way you did by moving out of the way and not letting it get out of hand. Thank you for doing that.”

        I may have actually had similar conversations in real life, as a matter of fact…

    • “Mr. Sandmann may have been in the right, but I believe his actions in the situation, and that look, heavily contributed.”

      He’s a kid. Standing with all of his friends. Showing amazing restraint while having a drum beaten in his face by an adult who had no business getting in his face to begin with. Had I been Mr. Sandmann’s teacher, I would have intervened and had a word or two with Mr. Phillips.

      • I don’t disagree with your point here, though I probably would have pulled one of my students quietly away. I had a few interactions with people who went after my students, though, so I get your point.

    • Keith writes: Regardless of who was the “aggressor” here . . .

      Your comment is appreciated. I don’t recognize your user name and certainly hope you will write more. It is all very interesting but hard to sort through.

      I approach these social issues from a certain distance. My interest is less in what is happening but in why it is happening. I am interested in the idea of ‘aggression’ here.

      What seems to me to be the ‘final takeaway’ is that the Media, and people who watched this media, showed themselves as engaged in a most outrageous ‘aggression’: the aggression of a virulent interpretation. A rather terrifying ‘imposition’ of a violent interpretation against a busload of Catholic boys.

      It seems to me that if one asks oneself what is the most fruitful line of analysis it will come from analysis of the ‘cultural conditions’ that bring this bizarre situation about. Those cultural conditions have to do with collisions of cultural and ethnic groups. Obviously Black Americans and Indigenous Americans within a modern social conflict over ‘whiteness’. I use here the term that they might use, and do use in other contexts (like at Evergreen College).

      One has to look at the ‘framing’ of the event to understand the strange social psychology which the Media involved itself in and used to communicate its *points* — whatever those points were and are. These are very complex points. It is not easy to describe them. The larger point is a general Anti-Trumpism (which in fairness is a valid position insofar as there are benign and violent interpretations of what Trump is and what he is doing). But settled within that larger issue, like Russian nesting dolls, are a wide group of other *points*. But the most salient expression is the *violence* brought out against these youths. The framing of the event. The invocation of a profound contempt and hatred. It is a violence that, literally, destroys.

      So, who is the ‘aggressor’? What is the aggression? And what is it really directed against?

      You seem to say that these boys should have ‘walked away’. But really how could they have conceived that they stood right in the center of a hornet nest? They could not. And what transpired there, for these kids, transpired in 20-30 minutes no more. They were just there waiting. Without any idea at all that someone would come along, focus on this event, blow it up, and create a spectacle of giant proportion.

      This *explosiveness* is connected to The Culture Wars, no? Certainly there is The Event, but then the Event must be *interpreted*. And the interpretation they made reveals everything about them and where they stand.

  6. So much has been said and written about “the look”. As someone with serious RBF it means nothing on its own. I know someone who responds to all aggression with a nervous laugh. It often increases the aggression even when she’s done nothing to cause the aggression or the escalation.

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