Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Sandmann appeared in a viral video last month seemingly smirking at a Native American man named Nathan Phillips who was playing the drums at the Washington, D.C., March for Life. The short video was quickly twisted by rumors stating that Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High School friends had been mocking Phillips. Many spoke out in criticism of the boy, including comedian Bill Maher who made particularly damaging comments about Sandmann on his weekly HBO political program Real Time. For days the teen was torn apart in the media until further footage showed that nothing was as it seemed, according to Fox News.
When the truth came out that Sandmann had never actually taunted Phillips after all or conducted himself in a malicious manner, it was alleged that many had twisted the story for their own political motives. Sandmann went on live television to profess his innocence but much of the nation had already made up their own opinions about him. He and his family are now suing The Washington Post for defamation of character. The publication wrote a series of particularly harsh reports about Sandmann, many of which were later proven false.
The lawsuit is for a whopping $250 million; an amount that his attorney, Todd McMurtry, feels is justified. At only 16-years-old, Sandmann’s reputation was trashed. Because of this, he may encounter difficulty when applying for colleges or even finding a job later in life. Most will probably remember him as the kid that was at the center of a political controversy, regardless of what actually happened. The attorney suggested that Maher may soon be served for his own public comments in which he calls the teen “a little prick” and slams his parents for raising a child without manners. McMurtry hopes that this lawsuit will encourage other publications and influencers to have a higher degree of journalistic integrity and check their sources before spreading potential rumors.
“Other commentators have sought to say that our damages are too high, but when you think about that those damages never go away and live on the internet forever, I think they are appropriate in this circumstance…..The Washington Post is a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation. And they did that without adequate and appropriate levels of journalistic integrity and reporting and that in itself is malicious.”
Of course, The Washington Post was not the only publication to drag Sandmann’s name through the mud when the video first came out. Additionally, dozens of celebrities and liberal-leaning politicians seemingly targeted the boy as well. Whether or not the teens family plans to go after them as well is yet to be revealed.