An attorney for Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student who was vilified after a confrontation with Native American activist Nathan Phillips, said that those who allegedly defamed his client “need to be punished and they need to pay a high price for what they did.”
Todd McMurty, the co-counsel for Sandmann, told Fox News on Feb. 7 that legal action was being considered against dozens of celebrities, media, and other groups on accusations of libel and defamation.
“We are identifying people that may be libel. And then we’re sending out what you call document preservation letters,” McMurty said on the “Todd Starnes Show.” “These letters are designed to put people on notice. … So we sent those to about 52 organizations that include celebrities, national media sources, Catholic diocese that were involved in this. So all those people have received notices.”
McMurty’s comments follow earlier reports of Sandmann’s legal team preparing a large-scale lawsuit against subjects whose public criticism of Sandmann may have crossed certain lines.
Sandmann, the 16-year-old seen in the viral video standing in front of Nathan Phillips playing a drum, faced rebuke by prominent figures like actor Jim Carey, actress Alyssa Milano, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as media organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post.
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) January 29, 2019
Professor Paul Adams wrote an op-ed critique of the rush to censure Sandmann, saying, “There was an extraordinary rush to judgment and a contagion of fake news spread by social media and the collapse of professional standards in mainstream reporting.”
“We have witnessed a moral hysteria that took hold like a spark on dry tinder,” Adams wrote. “It was a small spark, nothing but a dishonest and distorting video clip, but enough to set off a forest fire.”
The group of Covington students was waiting for their bus near the Lincoln Memorial after the Jan. 18 March for Life in Washington, when they were approached by several Native American activists led by 64-year-old Nathan Phillips, drumming and chanting.
Sandmann and Phillips faced off. It was caught on video and went viral.
“As reported in our liberal media, it was a blatant expression—by the boys, no less—of racism, privilege, tribalism, and hate,” wrote Adams.
But then a longer video of the incident—with more context—later emerged, prompting a re-evaluation.
Many who initially rushed to slam Sandmann issued apologies, retractions, or simply deleted tweets. Others doubled down in their reproach.
The extended video showed how the Covington Catholic High School students were being harassed by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites before the Native American group stepped toward the students while playing drums and singing. The image was initially interpreted by the media as a racial confrontation, with the white high school students as the aggressors.
“The students chanted spirit songs from their Catholic high school in Kentucky to drown out the torrent of racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse from the BHI cult,” Adams said of the incident.
Under the video, the description says:
“2 weeks ago, the mainstream media, politicians, church officials, commentators, & celebrities rushed to judgment to wrongfully condemn, threaten, disparage & vilify Nick Sandmann based solely on a few seconds of an out-of-context video clip. It only takes 15 minutes to learn the truth. Here it is.”
The 15-minute video paints a picture with much more context than the short viral video clip that led to the initial outrage.
“I’m coming to bomb your office. Get ready. 48 hours. Be ready.”
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) January 25, 2019
Adams said that in his view, considering the fuller picture captured in the longer video, “the Covington hoax was an extension” of methods used by leftist revolutionaries known as “ritual defamation,” which he described as a strategy of “personal demonization, disregard of evidence, refusal to engage in rational argument, and single-minded focus of hostility on the individual to be destroyed.”
He interpreted the fallout from the confrontation as a case of identity politics gone awry.
“The boys’ actual offense was not anything they did, but who they were—male, Catholic, pro-life, white, and, perhaps worst of all,—judging by their MAGA hats—supporters of their president.”
Growing List of Targets
McMurty said on the Todd Starnes Show that the legal team had stepped up preparations of the suit, which could target hundreds of individuals and entities.
“We will continue to expand that list of 52 and I suspect when it’s all over the list is going to be in the hundreds as we identify other people who have defamed, slandered and libeled Nick both in the press, live programs, and writing,” McMurty added. “We do intend to pursue as many of these people as we possibly can.”
Another of Sandmann’s attorneys, L. Lin Wood, was cited by Fox News as saying that the legal team has expanded the potential list of accusations to cyberbullying and assault.
“Defendants who have intentionally joined a cybermob aimed at harassing and threatening a teenager have good reason to be legally concerned,” Wood told Fox News in a statement.
McMurty alleged that Sandmann’s future had potentially been harmed.
“They made false statements against my client that have damaged his reputation. And imagine being the person subject to all of this hatred at age 16 and imagine when you apply to a college grad school. Imagine when you go to a party. Imagine when you seek a new job or want to move to a new city we’re going to know who you are,” McMurty said on the show. “I don’t think people are going to forget this for years to come. And what they did to him is completely inexcusable. It’s a travesty and they all need to be punished and they need to pay a high price for what they did.”
‘Smeared by Media’
Fox News asked lawyer David Gibbs of the National Center for Life & Liberty what he thinks of the viability of the lawsuit.
“I think we need to recognize that reputations should not just be disposable by journalists in this internet era. In this case, you don’t have the president, or the speaker of the house, or a public figure, you have teenagers,” said Gibbs. “But when you look at an ongoing defamation where false statements are being made, where they’re being labeled as terrorists or troublemakers in this internet era, that’s a branding that the journalists should be held responsible for.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the incident, saying Sandmann and the Covington students had been “treated unfairly” and “smeared by media.”
Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false – smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback! “New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American” @TuckerCarlson
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019
Gibbs had more words about the journalists who reported falsely about Sandmann.
“They’re making money off these hits. They’re making money off this publicity. And when they destroy people’s lives or put them at risk, they should be held accountable under the law.”