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.