Attorneys for Nick Sandmann, the high school student at the center of a viral encounter between Covington Catholic High School students and a Native American activist, attacked the Washington Post on Monday for a “belated” correction to its coverage of the incident.
The Post published an editor’s note last Friday evening admitting its initial story contained factual errors, and a Twitter account for the paper announced the deletion of a post containing false information.
The Post has issued an Editor’s Note about updates to its initial coverage of the Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial: https://t.co/rhzKZ1715K
We’ve also deleted this Jan. 19 tweet in light of later developments. For more, see the Editor’s Note. pic.twitter.com/O7qCSnBMPO
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 1, 2019
“Subsequent reporting, a student’s statement and additional video allow for a more complete assessment of what occurred, either contradicting or failing to confirm accounts provided in that story — including that Native American activist Nathan Phillips was prevented by one student from moving on, that his group had been taunted by the students in the lead-up to the encounter, and that the students were trying to instigate a conflict,” the editor’s note read.
The correction continued: “The high school student facing Phillips issued a statement contradicting his account; the bishop in Covington, Ky., apologized for the statement condemning the students; and an investigation conducted for the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School found the students’ accounts consistent with videos.”
In a blistering statement, attorneys L. Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry retorted that the Post’s attempt to “whitewash its wrongdoing” was “untimely” and “grossly insufficient.”
“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,” said Wood and McMurtry. “The Post ignored its own culpability and wrongdoing. Mr. 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 lawyers, noting that the update came “41 days after it launched its false attacks on a minor,” then criticized the Post for failing to apologize to Sandmann and “seek forgiveness.”
“Highlighting its arrogance and lack of contrition, the Post announced its ‘deletion’ of one of its false and defamatory tweets about the incident and Nicholas by re-posting the tweet so that its lies will also forever remain available on the Internet and in social media,” the pair continued. “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.”
Wood and McMurtry concluded their statement saying the Post showed it had failed to learn its lesson and remains willing to smear other private citizens to in order to “further its political agenda.”
Earlier February, Sandmann filed a lawsuit against the Post, seeking $250 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
“The Post wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C. when he was unexpectedly and suddenly confronted by Nathan Phillips (‘Phillips’), a known Native American activist, who beat a drum and sang loudly within inches of his face (‘the January 18 incident’),” reads the lawsuit filed by Wood and McMurtry in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
The total sum sought by Sandmann is the same amount Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the Post for in 2013. The newspaper’s vice president for communications, Kristine Coratti Kelly, said in a statement to Reuters: “We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit and we plan to mount a vigorous defense.”
The lawsuit’s filing came after investigators hired by a Kentucky diocese concluded that the students did not instigate the January 18th confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Covington Bishop Roger Foys, who initially condemned the students, later apologized for “making a statement prematurely.”
Appearing on NBC’s Today, Sandmann affirmed that while he had a right to stand in the memorial, he regretted the incident snowballed into a national controversy. “As far as standing there, I had every right to do so,” Sandmann told Savannah Guthrie. “My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I’d like to talk to him. I mean, in hindsight, I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing. But I can’t say that I’m sorry for listening to him and standing there.”
“In hindsight, I wish we had just found another spot to wait for our buses, but at the time being positive seemed better than letting them slander us with all of these things,” he added. “So, I wish we could have walked away.”
The Covington student explained he did not simply walk away from Phillips because he did not want to appear disrespectful. “Well, now I wish I would have walked away. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Mr. Phillips and walk away if he was trying to talk to me, but certainly I was surrounded by a lot of people I didn’t know that had their phones out, had cameras and I didn’t want to bump into anyone or seem like I was trying to do something,” he said.