President Donald Trump offered words of encouragement Wednesday for the Catholic high school student who is suing The Washington Post over its coverage of last month’s viral and hotly debated confrontation between the boy and a Native American elder.
Lawyers for Nick Sandmann, the teen who was front and center in the viral video, announced Tuesday night they are seeking $250 million in damages from The Post for what they say was defamatory coverage of the incident.
“The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump (“the President”) by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President,” the suit alleges.
Trump weighed in on Twitter Wednesday morning to cheer Sandmann on, referencing the above section of the suit and adding “go get them Nick. Fake News!”
Trump has voiced support for students of the all-male Kentucky school before, ripping the media for “smearing” the boys, who were in Washington to attend an anti-abortion march.
White House officials have appeared on television to defend the students, and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly did not rule out a White House visit by the students at a later date. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a potential visit by the students.
The suit alleges that the Post, along with other media outlets, “targeted” Sandmann and his classmates because they were wearing clothing with the president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, and declined to seek context outside of the short video that caught fire on social media before portraying Sandmann and his classmates as the aggressors in the clip.
The widely seen clip shows a smirking Sandmann surrounded by laughing classmates looking down at Nathan Phillips, a tribal elder and veteran, as Phillips beats a drum on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Video surfaced later showed a fuller picture of the encounter, including that a group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites hurled invective at both the students and the group of Native Americans alike.
The additional video caused handwringing among many who had shared the initial clip, some of whom apologized for jumping to conclusions — and accused the media of doing the same — about the students depicted in the incident.
After intitially condemning the students' behavior, a team of private investigators retained by the Covington Diocese concluded last week that the students did not instigate the confrontation and found no evidence that they made “racist or offensive statements” to Phillips.
Sandmann’s attorneys say in the suit they have put together a 15-minute long video that they say vindicates their client, but accuse The Post of engaging in “a modern-day form of McCarthyism” and causing “permanent damage to his life and reputation.”
A Post spokeswoman said Tuesday the paper is “reviewing a copy of the lawsuit, and we plan to mount a vigorous defense."
In a statement accompanying the text of the complaint at the top of Sandmann's lawyers' website, the attorneys hint at more legal action to come stemming from coverage of the incident. The statement says the attorneys "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."
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine