Washington Post Quietly Admits Sloppy Reporting on Covington High School Incident

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
March 3, 2019USshare
Washington Post Quietly Admits Sloppy Reporting on Covington High School Incident
The Washington Post newsroom is seen following the inauguration of its headquarters in Washington, DC on Jan. 28, 2016. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington Post published an editor’s note that admitted sloppy journalism in its reporting of the Covington Catholic High School students’ encounter with Native American activists after the March for Life in Washington.

“A Washington Post article first posted online on Jan. 19 reported on a Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial. 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…,” the note reads in part.

The editor’s note came out on March 1, on a Friday. The Post posted a link to the note on Twitter at 5:24 p.m.

The note also comes over one and a half months later, after the faulty reporting had long been exposed, mostly due to longer videos of the incident making their way through the internet shortly after the incident.

Lawyers for Covington student Nick Sandmann have commented on Twitter that they do not think the note offers a retraction of the initial story, nor an apology for the harm it caused.

On Feb. 11, Sandmann’s lawyer L. Lin Wood posted a tweet aimed at billionaire Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

“Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, has used media to express his outrage over reporting about him. Yet, Mr. Bezos has not publicly uttered one word about the rush by The Washington Post to falsely accuse & defame Nick Sandmann, a 16-year old. The double standard must end,” tweeted Wood.

Two days later, Wood expressed his understanding that the mainstream media outlets that smeared his teenage client would never properly report the story:

“I am not holding my breath waiting for an investigative report from Washington Post, CNN, Associated Press, etc., etc. Litigation will reveal that Nick’s accusers conducted no proper investigation prior to publishing their false attacks on a minor. Discovery is a stubborn thing.”

A month after the Washington Post’s first story on Sandmann, lawyer Todd V. McMurtry announced that he and Wood filed a lawsuit seeking $250 million in damages from the Post.

Wood then explained why the Post should be ready for legal action.

“In a span of three (3) days in January of this year commencing on January 19, the Washington Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism to claim leadership of a mainstream & social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified & threatened Nick Sandmann, an innocent minor.”

In the following tweet, he posted a link to the lawsuit document, and left advice for others that could be involved in upcoming lawsuits.

“Here is the Complaint filed today against The Washington Post on behalf of Nick Sandmann. All members of the mainstream & social media mob of bullies who recklessly & viciously attacked Nick would be well-served to read it carefully.”

Both Wood and President Donald Trump posted their understanding that the Post’s goal in vilifying Sandmann was to advance an agenda of defaming the president and his supporters, and that since Sandmann was wearing a Make America Great Again hat, he became a convenient target in that quest.

“Nick Sandmann is 16-years of age, 5’9” in height and weighs 115 pounds. The school field trip to the Nation’s capital was the first out-of-state trip Nick had ever taken without being with his family. He did nothing to deserve being attacked, vilified & bullied. Nothing,” wrote Wood in a tweet, the same day the lawsuit was filed.

The crusade to attack and defame the 16-year-old started after the March for Life anti-abortion event in Washington on Jan. 18. Sandmann and his schoolmates were waiting to get on a bus back to Kentucky.

An early video clip shows Sandmann standing face-to-face with Native American activist Nathan Phillips, who is beating a drum inches from Sandmann’s face and chanting. Phillips was there as part of a Native American rights march on the same day.

Early media reports pilloried Sandmann and his classmates for being involved in some kind of racial altercation, but longer video emerged showing a group Black Hebrew Israelites verbally abusing both the high school students and Native American marchers.

Wood also released a more complete video, apparently put together from a variety of video sources that were recording that day, that gives more context. Ultimately, many of the celebrities, media professionals, and public figures that expressed hatred or called for violence towards Sandmann and his schoolmates deleted the tweets they’d initially sent out.

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