CNN decided not to drag its disgraced name through the courts. Already reeling from falling ratings and a 2019 Project Veritas exposé that uncovered a culture of rabid partisanship and manufactured stories, CNN has settled the lawsuit brought by attorneys representing Covington, KY high school student Nicholas Sandmann. Terms of the settlement are not known.
One year ago, Sandmann, then 16, took a high school trip to Washington, D.C. with his fellow Covington Catholic High School students. Upon encountering a group of Black Hebrew Israelites who hurled epithets at the students (presumably due to their patriotic headwear), a demonstrator, Native American Nathan Phillips, stepped between the two groups. Phillips later claimed that he was trying to act as a peacemaker.
If true, he had good reason to. Black Hebrew Israelites are a secretive group noted for angry rhetoric and worse. In the last month alone, affiliates have been responsible for a mass shooting in Jersey City, NJ kosher market, and the stabbings in Monsey, NY that injured five Hanukkah celebrants.
Sandmann and Phillips later disagreed about the nature of the exchange, with Phillips claiming his path was obstructed in a threatening manner by Sandmann. For his part, Sandmann claimed he was simply standing still on public property.
Mass media outlets ignored the Black Hebrew angle altogether and painted Sandmann as the aggressor and Phillips, a veteran, as a war hero. The perfect MSM narrative: decorated person of color suffers racist intimidation at the hands of a bratty Trump supporter in bosom of nation's capitol. Cherry-picked bits of video show Sandmann appearing to smirk at the war hero.
After professional editors were done with the footage, the optics weren't good for the teenager. At a tender age, he had already been canceled. Death threats, online and verbal harassment and the rest, all laid on the skinny shoulders of a kid on a class trip.
Following a trajectory common to many such cases, the truth came out, but only after everyone had made up their minds. Longer clips surfaced that painted a much different picture. The "smirk" was, if anything, the uncomfortable face a teen makes in a charged situation with friends looking on. No intimidation of any kind was displayed.
More emerged about Phillips as well. He was not, as he had claimed, deployed to Vietnam. Trained for anti-tank duty in 1972, he ended up as a refrigerator repairman deployed at two bases in the U.S. In 1976, he was discharged with the rank of private for disciplinary reasons such as repeated AWOLs and alcohol related issues.
Sandmann's father vowed to take up the fight to clear his son's name and reputation. It was an uphill battle.
The Sandmanns sued three media outlets they felt had unfairly disparaged Nick: CNN, NBC, and the Washington Post, for $250 million each. In July of last year, the suits were initially dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman.
In November, Bertelsman amended his dismissal, allowing for discovery on three of the initial 33 charges brought in the case. Whereas the scope of the case had been narrowed significantly, the crucial element was back on the table: legal discovery of the three networks' correspondence about the incident itself, and how they planned to pitch the story. In other words, a look inside the Fake News Cookbook. All of the decisions on how to edit the video clip, how to cast the characters, would come out in court.
So it's no surprise that CNN folded. It seems highly likely that NBC and the Post will follow suit.
It has been a long year in the life of Nick Sandmann, a year he won't get back. Yes, he now has what is likely a lot of money. Nevertheless, in the eyes of many, he will always be guilty of the manifold crimes assigned to anyone who openly supports President Trump: racism, bigotry, a laundry list of -phobias. His college applications will be flagged, his personal life fraught with the wide-eyed recognition of strangers.
If he does decide to enter the workforce, future prospective employers will do a double take upon review of his resumé. Not just because of his name, but because of his accomplishment. If Nick has any sense at all, the first line will read, "The Young Man Who Took On Fake News...And Won."
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