The high-powered attorneys representing Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann penned a scathing response to the Washington Post’s recent editor’s note, calling the paper’s attempt to “whitewash” the encounter between the Kentucky student and a Native American activist “too little and too late.”
Attorneys representing Sandmann announced last month that they were suing The Washington Post for $250 million in compensatory and punitive damages after the paper’s coverage of an encounter that went viral on social media.
Late on Friday, the Post published an editor’s note admitting that subsequent information either contradicted or failed to confirm accounts relayed in its initial article. The editor’s note was not satisfactory to Sandmann’s legal team.
“The Washington Post rushed to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies who falsely attacked, vilified and threatened Nicholas Sandmann, an innocent 16-year old boy,” a statement posted on the law firm’s website said. “The Friday night efforts by the Post to whitewash its wrongdoing were untimely, grossly insufficient and did little more than perpetuate the lies it published – lies that will haunt and adversely impact Nicholas for the rest of his life.”
The statement continued: “The Post ignored its own culpability and wrongdoing. (Post General Counsel Jay) Kennedy’s letter stated that the Post ‘provided accurate coverage.’ It did not and its belated public relations efforts change nothing and fool no one. The Post made no effort to retract and correct the lies it published.”
"The Post made no effort to retract and correct the lies it published.”
Sandmann’s attorneys -- L. Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry of Hemmer DeFrank Wessels, PLLC -- wrote that the Post “did not have the integrity to unequivocally admit its negligent and reckless violations of fundamental journalistic standards” and “not have the character to apologize to Nicholas and seek his forgiveness.”
Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School, became a target for outrage after a video of him standing face-to-face with a Native American man, Nathan Phillips, while wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat surfaced in January. Sandmann was one of a group of students from Covington attending the anti-abortion March for Life in Washington, D.C., while Phillips was attending the Indigenous Peoples' March on the same day.
Sandmann and the Covington students were initially accused of initiating the confrontation, but other videos and the students' own statements showed that they were verbally accosted by a group of black street preachers who were shouting insults at them and a group of Native Americans. Sandmann and Phillips have both claimed they were trying to defuse the situation.
“False accusations against an adult destroy a lifetime of accomplishments. False accusations against children forever rob them of their inherent right to define their lives for themselves and force them to suffer a life tainted and damaged by the permanent shadow of the lies,” the attorneys’ statement said. “Last Friday night the Post made clear that it has learned no lesson and remains willing in the future to falsely attack others to further its political agenda, including false attacks on children.”
“The Post has now double downed on its lies."
The statement concluded: “The Post has now double downed on its lies. As Nicholas’s lawyers, we will now double down on truth and aggressively continue our legal efforts to hold the Post accountable and obtain justice for Nicholas in a court of law.”
The lawsuit, filed in February in federal court in Kentucky, accused The Post of practicing "a modern-day form of McCarthyism" by targeting Sandmann, The suit said the paper had used "its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles ... to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the president."
A Post spokesperson provided the following statement: “While we do not accept the characterizations and contentions regarding our reporting of the incident at the Lincoln Memorial, we have taken steps to address the concerns expressed to us. The full story did not emerge all at once and throughout our coverage, we sought to produce accurate reports. Even the comments of the school and church officials changed, and The Post provided ongoing coverage of the conflicting versions of this event and its aftermath, giving prominent attention to the student’s account and the investigative findings supporting it. We thus have provided a fair and accurate historical record of how this incident unfolded.”
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and Matt Richardson contributed to this report.