The Washington Post published a story Tuesday night about efforts by lawyers for the Washington Post to have a lawsuit against the company dismissed. The story isn’t a stub but spends a few thousand words walking through the details of the case and why the Post’s attorneys believe Nick Sandmann has no case:
The Post, in its motion to dismiss the suit, asserts that its stories were accurate and did not impugn the reputation of Covington (Ky.) Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, who entered a social media storm through video footage shot during a chaotic afternoon on the Mall when he stood face-to-face with drumbeating Indian elder Nathan Phillips.
The articles cited in the Sandmann suit, which was filed on his behalf by his parents, “may not have been flattering of the Covington Catholic students” who were caught up in disparate marches that day, “but they do not give rise to a defamation claim by Sandmann,” says the paper’s motion, filed in U.S. District Court in Covington. “Indeed, the Post’s overall coverage — including the articles that the Complaint fails to mention — was not only accurate; it was ultimately favorable to him.”
My take is that the Post is playing a game here, one dictated by its own lawyers. The argument is that overall, the Post depiction of Sandmann was favorable, meaning that if you take the average of the early (bad) stories and the later (better) ones then, hey, it’s fine. But even the Post tacitly admits the initial story wasn’t too good:
In the video, the youth — then unidentified — bore a tight, ambiguous expression, which that initial article called a “relentless smirk.” But Sandmann later said he was just remaining motionless and calm, in hopes of soothing emotions at the scene.
Ah, the “relentless smirk” heard around the world. That was the entire hook for the story, not a passing reference. It’s literally the reason all the far-left goons on Twitter were spreading the clip and attacking Nick Sandmann (even before they knew his name) as someone who needed to be punched in the face. The Post ran with the story without checking the facts.
The Covington diocese and the school initially apologized to Phillips and condemned the students’ behavior as disrespectful to American Indians, raising the possibility of expulsion. But they reversed course within days as more videos and facts came to light.
Yes, the diocese did do that, possibly because they were relying on the bad reporting from the Washington Post! Like everyone else, they quickly realized they had been misled by the bad reporting.
Notice how this story parrots the Post’s legal filing. These two paragraphs say the same thing, the first one in the voice of the story’s author, the second one as a direct quote from the motion to dismiss:
Like many news stories, this one was iterative — it grew more complete with each telling — and The Post said that the paper tried at each turn to present more context and facts as they became available.
“This story was an emerging one,” the motion states. “No one could possibly have understood the initial article as having told the whole story.”
Yes, it was an emerging story that emerged from the left’s desire to humiliate and ridicule people on the right for any reason, whether true or not. That’s how and why it emerged and, again, the Post ran with it without checking the facts. Speaking of which, what about all the video clips that the Post didn’t look at before publishing its one-sided account?
The Sandmann suit contends that The Post ignored videos that showed a more complete picture of the incident and “did not conduct a proper investigation before publishing its false and defamatory statements of and concerning Nicholas.” The suit says the paper acted with “knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth” — the cornerstones of libel law.
The paper takes a different view. “He and others who were present may well have been embarrassed by the attention — and hurt by the criticism — they received,” the motion says. “But Sandmann does not have a cause of action for libel against The Washington Post.”
The Post’s argument seems to boil down to: Yes, we were terrible to Nick Sandmann but not terrible enough to make us legally responsible. I’ll leave that one to the lawyers to sort out but if the Post wants to claim it’s overall coverage was favorable, why are so many people in the comments of this Post story still attacking Nick Sandmann as a villain? A sharp commenter pointed this out:
Reading the comments here, many of which denigrate Nick Sandmann in a variety of unfavorable and insulting terms, it’s pretty hard to believe that Washington Post readers got the message that the story was “ultimately favorable to him”. I would think all a lawyer would have to do to prove defamation would be to read many of these comments, the authors of whom have probably formed their opinions by reading the WaPo coverage.
He’s right. In fact, there are at least a few people in the comments still talking about punchable faces. So I guess the Post’s positive stories didn’t really remedy the early, negative ones which they ran without checking the facts.