MAGA Brat Had A Bad Weekend So He'd Like $250 Million From The Washington Post, Please
The family of Nick Sandmann, whose name we only know because he voluntarily disclosed it, has filed a lawsuit against "fake news" purveyor The Washington Post. They want $250 million in damages because the Post wrote words that hurt their feelings.
We join this pity party already in progress:
"In a span of three days in January of this year commencing on January 19, the Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann, an innocent secondary school child," reads the complaint.
It added, "The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President."
The suit demonstrates that the Covington kids aren't racist by referring to Native American elder Nathan Phillips as a "phony war hero." Odd that they would blame Phillips for how the press, whom they're decrying, chose to identify him. The suit goes on to claim that Phillips is a coward who was "too intimidated" to approach the real "troublemakers," the Black Hebrew Israelites and instead focused on "innocent children." This might be the first defamation suit to defame someone else while suing for defamation.
Generally speaking, a plaintiff would have to prove that a newspaper printed defamatory information that it knew was false. Sandmann's suit chooses to meet this evidentiary burden with wacky conspiracy theories direct from QAnon. This isn't a lawsuit. It's a paranoid manifesto. This is our favorite part:
We're not constitutional originalists, but we still think this is bullshit. It's totally fair to judge people based on the clothing they wear when it expresses a clear political viewpoint. The MAGA hat is not a yarmulke. Actual First Amendment and civil rights attorney Ron Kuby told TheWrap yesterday that Sandmann's supposed case is a mockery of a sham.
KUBY: "It's more like one of these old fashioned cases filed on page 1 and dismissed on page 34... If you report two sides of an encounter, you know that one side is ultimately going to be proven incorrect. That doesn't mean you're open for defamation claims."
But hold on: Robert Precht, an ex-public defender, says that the Covington kids can "easily show damage to their reputations caused by the firestorm of condemnations by public figures and social media posts." The social media posts went viral independent of the Post's specific coverage. Any condemnation from public figures was arguably rooted more in Sandmann wearing the damn MAGA hat. The Post didn't photoshop it onto the kid's noggin. It's also inconceivable that Sandmann was so sheltered that he was unaware that a MAGA hat is more polarizing than a Cincinnati Reds cap. There have been several stories about restaurants and bars banning MAGA wear. If a lawyer presses Sandmann on this point under oath, it would inevitably come out that he chose to wear the hat to a political rally as a defiant, political statement. That is his First Amendment right, but it's also ours to call him out for it. That's not "bullying" and certainly not a "lynching" because he's still alive and obnoxious.
Sandmann wants to link his race and his religion with his political views. However, recent polls show half of white Catholics view Donald Trump unfavorably. Close to 90 percent of black folks think Michelle Obama's husband is awesome, and conservatives have spent years arguing that their antipathy for Obama isn't racially motivated despite all the ape commentary. We don't like Trump or the people who dig him so much, they'd risk hat hair, and although that demographic is predominately white, it doesn't follow that we dislike white people.
The Post even ran a story last week detailing how an "investigation" showed no "wrongdoing" by the Covington kids. High school officials and the Diocese of Covington all think they're squeaky clean. What are the actual damages Sandmann is claiming? Is there any college he's considering that won't accept him? Most white people feel sorry for him. They'd cry halfway through his entrance essay about how the left-wing mob ruined his life just like Emmett Till, if Till had survived his non-rhetorical "lynching" and wasn't an asshole. The president was even considering inviting Sandmann to the White House for a fast-food potluck. He was interviewed on the "Today" show! His life is objectively superior to ours at that age. We'd have given anything for some one-on-one time with Deborah Norville (yes, we're old).
When the president, even a Putin-installed one, publicly supports you, it's hard to prove permanent damage to your reputation. Non-white people might think you're a jerk, but people like Sandmann devote their whole lives to interacting with us as little as possible. Sandmann also shouldn't get too excited about having Trump in his corner. He's had a record number of suits filed against him and likes to brag that he's "only" lost 38 of them.
That $250 million figure is weird, though. It's the exact amount Jeff Bezos paid for the Post in 2013. Bezos is high on Trump's "enemy of the people" list. You get the impression that this nuisance suit is really intended to put a "chilling effect" on any coverage of Trump or his supporters they don't find flattering. It has no higher purpose other than punitive. We guess Sandmann must've learned something at that Catholic school of his after all.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.