The boy who became the face of “white privilege” when an edited video of his confrontation with an indigenous protester went viral is suing the Washington Post for defamation, asking for its entire value in a 2013 sale as damages.
Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic student whose “smirk” and “punchable face” launched a thousand reactionary tweets when the deceptively-edited video of his confrontation with Native American protester Nathan Phillips went viral last month, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Post for $250 million – the entire amount Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid for the paper in 2013 – alleging the paper used him as “a pawn in its political war” against President Donald Trump.
The suit claims the Post “wrongly targeted and bullied” the high schooler in order to “advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump” because Sandmann is white and wore the red Make America Great Again hat that has become an iconic symbol among the president’s fans – and his detractors.
By implying that Sandmann “engaged in acts of racism by ‘swarming’ Phillips, ‘blocking’ his exit away from the students, and otherwise engaging in racist misconduct,” the Post “fanned the flames of the social media mob into a mainstream media frenzy,” compounding the threats and bullying directed at the teen, while its failure to fact-check – the unedited video was freely available at the time of publication – confirms its “utter and knowing disregard for the truth.”
Sandmann’s lawyer, Lin Wood, says this lawsuit is “only the beginning.” The lawsuit, filed in Kentucky federal court, seeks $50 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees, “to deter [WaPo] from repeating such egregiously unlawful misconduct in the future.” The Post was the first to circulate the video outside social media, they believe, but Wood and partner Todd McMurtry sent a letter to 54 media outlets, celebrities, lawmakers, and church entities warning them of future legal action as well.
The edited video circulated by the Post and other mainstream outlets framed Sandmann as the villain in the encounter with Phillips, even though the elder and a few other protesters had actually walked into the middle of the group of teenagers, chanting and beating drums in their faces deliberately.
Sandmann, whose face was front and center in the video, quickly became the subject of vicious and even violent tweets from strangers writing about punching him in the face, burning down his school, and committing other heinous acts against him and his classmates.