February 19, 2019

Nicholas Sandmann’s Defamation Lawsuit vs. The Washington Post

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 8:55 pm

Defamation illustrationReaders may recall that in January of this year, a group of high school students from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, KY, were visiting national monuments in Washington, DC.  Some of the students, including plaintiff Nicholas Sandmann, had purchased MAGA caps as souveniers and were wearing them.

During their visit, the students were approached by various demonstrators and were racially and politically derided by anti-Trump demonstrators.

Several of the national skews media including the Washington Post newspaper repeatedly reported the circumstances inaccurately, incompletely, and in a way that incorrectly suggested the high school students were the instigators.

Subsequently, one of the students (Sandmann) and his parents contacted a private attorney who investigated the incident and found sufficient reason to allege that the Washington Post had defamed Nathan Sandmann and damaged his reputation.

Fox News is reporting that on Tuesday, February 19, 2017, the attorney filed a lawsuit alleging defamation against the Washington Post.  The lawsuit was filed in Kentucky.  Here is a link to the complaint filed today in the lawsuit NICHOLAS SANDMANN, by and through his parents and natural guardians, TED SANDMANN and JULIE SANDMANN, Plaintiffs, v. WP COMPANY LLC d/b/a THE WASHINGTON POST, Defendant.

The complaint outlines the events and timeline of events explaining why this lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nicholas Sandmann.  In particular, it explains how his reputation has allegedly been damaged by the defendant, the Washington Post.  If you take the tine to read the complaint (it is pretty much written in plain English rather than outdated formal legalese), you will get a much better understanding of what it is important to prove in court during a defamation lawsuit.

As noted on the webpage of Hemmer DeFrank Wessels, PLLC, the Kentucky law firm who, along with Georgia attorney Lin Wood, are representing the plaintiff, “Lin [Wood] and Todd [McMurtry] will continue to bring wrongdoers before the court to seek damages in compensation for the harm so many have done to the Sandmann family. This is only the beginning.”

“This is only the beginning,” is a pretty good indication that other lawsuits may be filed against other news media and even some entertainment personalities whose prominence and permanence may have added to the damage of Nicholas Sandmann.


  1. I am so glad you posted this. I hope they are successful, but we shall see. People need to learn they can be accountable for what they say or print. So far though, most of them haven’t been held to accountability.

    Comment by reddy — February 20, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

  2. reddy,

    Thank you.

    The Sandmann complaint is a document that high school government classes, not to mention college “journalism” classes, ought to study and learn from. The complaint contains allegations that will have to be proven factual with admissible evidence in court or stipulated by the WaPo attorneys.

    In evaluating the merits of Nicholas Sandmann’s case, his attorneys have done the kind of investigation that the skews media should have done before going to print or airing the first story. It will be fascinating to see how the WaPo defends factually against the evidence Sandmann’s attorneys seem to represent they have amassed.

    It seems to me that “journalism” as represented by today’s style of news reporting has deteriorated. It has devolved from timely, factual, and complete reporting of information to faux analytical advocacy pimping the viewpoint and promoting the financial motivations of the medium’s owners, editors and publishers, news directors and assignment editors.

    However, it may be that primarily because of the Internet with its quality and quantity of information very timely available to us, We the People have the opportunity to become more critical information consumers. The Sandmann complaint is an example of that information. BI (Before Internet), we were to some extent dependent on the skill of reporters and the judgements of editors to gather the raw information, collate it, analyze it, and disseminate it. In essence, other people were telling us what they thought we needed to know, and we had few options but to accept it.

    But now with the Internet, We the People have direct access to pretty much the same raw information that reporters do. We are much less dependent on other people’s business motivations and biases than we were when the skewspapers and electronic media were our only sources. We can watch newsmaking events (e.g., the Kavanaugh hearings) and see for ourselves rather than relying on the skew and spew of Bezos Bozos at the Washington Post and Sulzberger’s Slimes at the New York Times.

    We can attend public meetings and hear the lies and half-truths of public officials firsthand rather than reading them in the fishwrap or hearing some over-the-hill newsreader on EyeHalfwit Skews at 5, 6, and 11.

    We’re better prepared than we ever have been to form our own uninformed opinions; we no longer need to rely on the uninformed opinions of “journalists.” I think the skews media’s general overreactionary reporting on the Covington Catholic students’ visit to Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac amounts less to reporting than possibly being the last gasps for air in an industry in its death throes and on the verge of obsolescence.

    We’ll have to wait and see how the Sandmann lawsuits turn out, but I suspect that one of the outcomes will be one or more court decisions with the impact of Times v. Sullivan but with the protections of the free press more constrained by the now-recognized and rejected abuses of those freedoms.

    Just as the US Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment to the Constitution can be subject to reasonable constraints, I think we may see the same Court impose similar constraints on the skews media. If that happens, the skews media and the schools that teach advocacy journalism will have only themselves to blame.

    Comment by Bill — February 20, 2019 @ 2:31 pm

  3. I have always admired your writings, Sir. You must be a very smart, informed, person. You explain things so well. It’s just too bad that most people are so willing to swallow the “journalists” who mainly write or say what the boss tells them to say. As for the industry being in its death throes, that is so true. I have a relative in California who works for the main Central California newspaper and for several years he has been in fear of losing his job due to declining readership. I no longer read our local paper, mainly for its liberal stance and also because the reporters can’t spell, can’t put a sentence together correctly, the stupid comic strips, proofreading, etc., etc., etc.

    Comment by reddy — February 20, 2019 @ 3:25 pm

  4. reddy,

    Thank you for the very nice compliments.

    It seems to me that one of the sometimes overlooked setbacks associated with the decline of newspapers’ reporting staff is the decline in information supplied to the wire services.

    A friend of mine, now retired, used to be a reporter for KNX News Radio in Los Angeles. In addition to the guidance from his assignment editor in LA, he relied on the LA Times and the Orange County Register for story leads to plan his workday and give him ideas for enterprise reporting. Given the time and content differences between the print and electronic media, my concern is that the newspapers’ declines will severely impair the variety and quality of the television news.

    An additional undesired side effect is that locally-produced radio news is for all intents and purposes gone from all but the largest metro markets. Radio stations either rely almost exclusively on network news or they have partnerships with local television stations to use the “stripped off” audio from television newscasts with little or no rewriting and editing. A standup or voiceover on the TV news broadcast is written and produced differently than one for radio.

    With radio stations relying more and more on syndicated programming (talk radio, satellite-delivered music, etc.) with nearly no local production, communities like Kootenai County with no local radio production capability is at a huge disadvantage during a catastrophic emergency. Relying on the Spokane stations to adequately cover Kootenai County and provide continuous emergency-related information and guidance in a region-wide emergency is likely wishful thinking. They’re going to be in Spokane, not Kootenai County.

    Comment by Bill — February 20, 2019 @ 4:36 pm

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