There was another round of interesting speeches at the RNC last night and we’ll be covering a few of them for you this morning. Personally, I was interested to see the appearance by Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic fame. Sandmann’s now-famous encounter with opportunistic professional protester Nathan Phillips turned him into a national figure in the debate over liberal media bias when he was only a child. He subsequently won two major lawsuits against CNN and the Washington Post (with more to come), and he’s continued to be a popular figure in conservative social media circles. But I had to wonder what he specifically would be bringing to the table for an RNC appearance.
I’m always a bit nervous when children are thrust into the media spotlight of American politics because we’ve seen uneven results with some of them in the past. (For the record, Sandmann has since turned 18 and is no longer a child.) Nick wound up turning in a fairly solid performance. He clearly seemed a bit nervous and uncertain in his delivery, but who wouldn’t be when invited to speak on such a massive stage, particularly at his age? It was more the content of the speech that left me with a few questions, however. (NY Post)
Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic high school student who successfully sued CNN and the Washington Post for defamation, railed against liberal media in a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention on Tuesday evening.
“I’m the teenager who was defamed by the media,” Sandmann, now 18, said with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop…
“Looking back now, how could I possibly imagine that the simple act of putting on that red hat would unleash hate from the left, and make myself the target of network in cable news networks nationwide?” Sandmann said.
“I found myself face to face with Nathan Phillips, and other professional protesters looking to turn me into the latest poster child showing why Trump is bad. While the media portrayed me as an aggressor with a relentless smirk on my face, in reality the video confirms I was standing with my hands behind my back with an awkward smile on my face.”
Before getting to they way Sandmann handled this moment in the spotlight, here’s the video of the speech from PBS in case you missed it. It’s only four and a half minutes long.
Let me start with one technical note about the filming of this speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The coverage seems to have been handled by PBS, so this is clearly no fault of Sandmann’s, but the choice of camera angles was simply awful. The front-on shot with the memorial in the background was fine, but they periodically cut to a second camera that was off to Sandmann’s right side. This was done without the speaker being able to turn and face the camera, so it looks as if he’s just rambling while he stares off into space. It was unflattering to say the least.
As to the speech itself, I’ll confess to being a bit taken aback by how much time Nick spent talking about himself and his now-famous encounter from last year. I expected him to offer a brief reminder of what happened to him before moving on to broader issues, what his experience says about mainstream media coverage of politics and the larger lessons he’s taken away from all of this. Instead, Sandmann gave a full, blow-by-blow retelling of the tale that took up a full three minutes of his four and a half minutes on camera. His encounter is now legendary and the details are readily available with a quick Google search for anyone who may have somehow never heard of him.
Look, I understand that Sandmann has a major beef with our liberal news outlets, and very rightly so. But he’s addressing the RNC audience in the midst of a hotly contested election. His story is one part of the overall journey, but I’d assumed that his message would be a bit more sweeping in nature. To his credit, he did move on to talking about the importance of the election and what it means in the larger context of the ideological divide. He was gracious in his support of the President and made the case for a second Trump term, framed in what it means to regular Americans who have to live with the results of the election. I offer Nick a hearty “well done” for that part of his remarks. It just seemed a bit… rushed and tacked on to the end, if that makes sense.
I realize that I’m just quibbling over the structure of the speech, coming at this from the position of someone who has had to write political speeches for people professionally in the past. Just because I probably would have put the remarks together differently, that doesn’t mean that Nick shouldn’t have chosen this approach. It was still a fine speech and his story needed to be part of the larger discussion regarding media coverage of this election. I’m glad he was included.
I’ll be interested to see what this young man’s future holds for him. While the details of his settlements with CNN and the Washington Post were sealed, he clearly made a major score, possibly in excess of $100M between the two of them. And there are more lawsuits pending that have yet to be settled. Unless something goes disastrously awry, Sandmann could literally retire now at the age of 18 if he wanted to. I sincerely hope he’s using the resources and opportunities he’s been afforded wisely, saving for his future and giving something back to the community. You did fine, Nick. Thanks for sharing your journey with everyone.