The Washington Post has issued an editor’s note that admits its coverage of the Lincoln Memorial confrontation between Covington, Kentucky teens and a Native American activist was inaccurate in some of its reporting.
The newspaper faces a $250 million defamation lawsuit in regard to its coverage of the incident, which sparked a firestorm reaction online when it happened in January. Subsequent footage revealed a fuller picture of the incident, which caused the WaPo to apparently re-evaluate its reporting.
An editor’s note issued by the media outlet said “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.”
Nicholas Sandmann, age 16, has alleged the newspaper falsely labeled him a racist and said that the WaPo engaged in “targeting and bullying,” which the suit claimed was a version of modern “McCarthyism.”
The lawsuit claims that the newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied” the teen to advance its bias.
A video from the incident shows Sandmann standing face to face with Native American activist Nathan Phillips. Sandmann smirks at him while Phillips sings and plays his drum. In its early articles, the Post reported that the schoolboys taunted Phillips.
The editor’s note now admits that was an inaccurate picture.
“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 — including that Native American activist Nathan Phillips was prevented by one student from moving on, that his group had been taunted by the students in the lead-up to the encounter, and that the students were trying to instigate a conflict.
The high school student facing Phillips issued a statement contradicting his account; the bishop in Covington, Ky., apologized for the statement condemning the students; and an investigation conducted for the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School found the students’ accounts consistent with videos.
Subsequent Post coverage, including video, reported these developments: ‘Viral standoff between a tribal elder and a high schooler is more complicated than it first seemed’; ‘Kentucky bishop apologizes to Covington Catholic students, says he expects their exoneration’; ‘Investigation finds no evidence of ‘racist or offensive statements’ in Mall incident.’
A Jan. 22 correction to the original story reads: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that Native American activist Nathan Phillips fought in the Vietnam War. Phillips said he served in the U.S. Marines but was never deployed to Vietnam.”
Sandmann’s Atlanta lawyer, Lin Wood, said similar lawsuits would be filed against other parties in the weeks ahead.