The Washington Post has backtracked on its initial reporting of the controversy surrounding Covington Catholic students at the March for Life, issuing several corrections to its original story after being hit with a $250 million defamation lawsuit from one of the students.
The news outlet, and many others, reported on a viral video that appeared to show students from the private high school mocking and intimidating a Native American man during the March for Life in Washington, D.C., last month. Much of the reporting focused on Nicholas Sandmann, a student seen standing and smiling just feet away from the man as he sang a traditional song.
Initial reports claimed that the students had surrounded the man, Nathan Phillips, and prevented him from moving forward toward the Lincoln Memorial while taunting him. But a newly posted editor’s note said that information coming to light later would contradict this account.
“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 note read.
The Washington Post also deleted a January 19 tweet about the incident “in light of later developments.”
Coverage of the event came under criticism as the new developments came to light, with many pointing fingers at news outlets for rushing to publish the story based largely on a viral video clip and not much more context. Sandmann’s family hired high-powered attorney L. Lin Wood, who filed a $250 million defamation case against the Washington Post and has sent letters to a number of other news outlets in preparation of other potential lawsuits.
Sandmann’s lawyer claimed that media outlets attacked the teenager because he was white and a Trump supporter, as he was seen on the video wearing the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” hat.
“The Post bullied an innocent child with an absolute disregard for the pain and destruction its attacks would cause to his life,” the lawsuit claimed.
I asked Nicholas Sandmann’s attorneys whether WaPo’s editors note changes the lawsuit. They said no, the note is “barely worth commenting on.” https://t.co/XwEXgjflyv
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) March 2, 2019
The Washington Post said, through a lawyer, that it planned to mount a vigorous defense against the lawsuit, and legal experts said it may be an uphill battle for Sandmann’s attorney to prove to a court that the teenager deserved $250 million in damages.