News & Politics

Covington Catholic Student's Lawyers Respond to WaPo's Friday Night Walk-Back

Attorney L. Lin Wood talks with reporters as he leaves federal court in Denver on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

It’s probably safe to say that attorneys L. Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry are not impressed with the Washington Post’s weak Friday night walk-back on the Covington kids controversy. In a scathing statement, the lawyers vowed to “aggressively continue” their efforts to hold the newspaper accountable.

The Post in January led an online media mob maligning their client, Covington High School student Nicholas Sandmann, after a video clip went viral of him standing and smiling at Native American activist Nathan Phillips as the activist banged on a drum and chanted in his face. The Covington Catholic boys were aggressively confronted by two groups of protesters while they were waiting for their bus following the March for Life, in Washington, D.C., on January 19.

The video clip spurred a nationwide media frenzy and the Covington boys were falsely accused of mocking Phillips, prompting hundreds of threats against the school and the school’s students from across the country by phone, email, and social media.

Last month, Wood and McMurtry filed a lawsuit against the Post seeking $250 million in both compensatory and punitive damages for the part they allegedly played in defaming 16-year-old Sandmann.

In their statement Monday, the pair slammed the Post for not having “the character to apologize to Nicholas and seek his forgiveness,” arguing that their “Editor’s Note” was just an attempt to “whitewash its wrongdoing” and “did little more than perpetuate the lies it published.” The lawyers declared that the Post has still not learned a lesson “and remains willing in the future to falsely attack others to further its political agenda, including false attacks on children.”

Wood, an Atlanta-based attorney who specializes in aggressive defamation suits against the media, first reacted to the Editor’s Note on Twitter Saturday, calling the paper “an arrogant, non-contrite bully.”

Wood and McMurtry posted the statement on their law firm’s website.

“Late last Friday evening, 41 days after it launched its false attacks on a minor, the Post published an Editor’s Note and delivered to Nicholas’ lawyers a letter from its General Counsel, Jay Kennedy,” Wood and McMurtry wrote.

With its unlimited financial resources, the Post likely spent tens of thousands of dollars on media defense lawyers to publicly parse and spin its false coverage in an effort to avoid accountability and limit its legal responsibility for its wrongdoing. The Post’s efforts were too little and too late.

The Friday night efforts by the Post to whitewash its wrongdoing were untimely, grossly insufficient and did little more than perpetuate the lies it published – lies that will haunt and adversely impact Nicholas for the rest of his life.

The Post ignored its own culpability and wrongdoing. Mr. Kennedy’s letter stated that the Post “provided accurate coverage.” It did not and its belated public relations efforts change nothing and fool no one. The Post made no effort to retract and correct the lies it published.

The Post did not have the integrity to unequivocally admit its negligent and reckless violations of fundamental journalistic standards documented by its complete failure to investigate the incident at the National Mall before publishing lies about a child. One need only review the Post’s published list of its own Policies and Standards at https://www.washingtonpost.com/policies-and-standards/?utm_term=.ec515ec8b6aa to find violation after violation after violation.

The Post did not have the character to apologize to Nicholas and seek his forgiveness.

Highlighting its arrogance and lack of contrition, the Post announced its “deletion” of one of its false and defamatory tweets about the incident and Nicholas by re-posting the tweet so that its lies will also forever remain available on the Internet and in social media.

False accusations against an adult destroy a lifetime of accomplishments. False accusations against children forever rob them of their inherent right to define their lives for themselves and force them to suffer a life tainted and damaged by the permanent shadow of the lies.

Last Friday night the Post made clear that it has learned no lesson and remains willing in the future to falsely attack others to further its political agenda, including false attacks on children.

The Post has now double downed on its lies. As Nicholas’s lawyers, we will now double down on truth and aggressively continue our legal efforts to hold the Post accountable and obtain justice for Nicholas in a court of law.

Sandmann’s lawyers say they also intend to file lawsuits against Nathan Phillips and dozens of others.

Wood and McMurtry have sent preservation letters to over 50 media outlets, individual journalists, celebrities, and several Catholic dioceses as the first step in potential libel and defamation lawsuits. That number could grow, according to McMurtry, who said in an interview last month that “when it’s all over, the list is going to be in the hundreds.”