Nick Sandmann became famous for wearing a Make America Great Again hat while smiling smugly in the face of a Native American.  The narrative was powerful and viral: a group of racist Trump supporters mobbed an innocent, drum-playing demonstrator. Once this story went viral, Sandmann experienced threats of violence on the internet and vicious attacks on character from the mainstream media. 

There was just one problem.  The narrative was all wrong, so Sandmann decided to fight back.  He sued the Washington Post and CNN for portraying him as racist. In January, CNN settled the lawsuit. Just last week, the Post did the same for an undisclosed amount.

Good. It’s about time we started to hold these media outlets accountable.

Lin Wood, Sandmann’s lawyer has threatened journalists yet again this week. CNN host Brian Stetler and Post reporter Dan Zak sent out tweets speculating how much compensation Sandmann received.  In other words, they were spreading rumors about Sandmann with literally no information, yet again.

Sounds about right, because this is what they’ve been doing all along.  Here’s how wrong they got it originally.

In January 2019, the video went viral of Sandmann in his red MAGA hat smiling smugly while standing in front of a Native American who was playing a drum. The main story circulating claimed the group of white Covington Catholic students were arguing with a small group of black men, preaching the Bible. They were separated by a group of Native American demonstrators who stood between them, standing for unity. Then, the racist, cocky students disrespected the Native Americans. 

Different explanations for the peculiar video were arising from all parties. The Native American drummer, Nathan Phillips spoke about the incident in a video, saying “As I was singing, I heard them saying, ‘Build that wall, build that wall.’ This is indigenous land; we’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did … We never had a wall. We never had a prison. We always took care of our elders. We took care of our children … We taught them right from wrong.” Phillips tearfully continued, “I wish I could see … the [young men] could put that energy into making this country really great … helping those that are hungry.”

More footage later rose giving the infamous staredown video context. 

It turns out there were people hurling insults at the Native Americans, but it was not the white Trump supporters. It was the Black Hebrew Israelites, a small group of black men who believe they are direct descendents from the 12 tribes of Israel. These radicals were not the evangelicals the media had portrayed them as. “You’re not supposed to worship eagles, buffalos, rams, all types of animals,” one of the men yelled to the Native Americans.

The students at Covington Catholic stood and watched. They were by most accounts respectful, even while the Black Hebrew Israelites threatened them and called them ‘crackers.’ 

The small, black religious group released their own two hour video, which cleared the young Trump supporters from most of the criticism hurled at them from the rest of America. 

When Nathan Phillips stepped between the two groups, Nick Sandmann simply stood and smiled in front of him. In some videos, you can clearly see Sandmann turn and mouth the word, “no” to his friends. He was discouraging any disrespect towards the Native Americans. 

So what really happened? According to most accounts, the Covington students were altogether mostly respectful, not threatening, not racist. 

Prominent news outlets such as the New York Times got it completely wrong. The Times wrote two stories on the event within two days. The first was entitled, “Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Mob Native Elder at Indigenous Peoples March.” The next article was named, “Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video of Native American Man and Catholic Students.”

The articles were flawed, claiming Phillips was a Vietnam veteran, which was incorrect, adding gas to an already rampant fire. These young racists mobbed a Native American, even worse, one who fought for our country. The Times corrected these mistakes, but was guilty of smearing the reputation of young men with no evidence. The news let it’s bias get in the way of facts, and it had genuine consequences.

The Atlantic explained how the media could have prevented this mess, citing ‘journalistic ethics.’

Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story.

Fake news is more than just junk filling our timelines. It can ruin people’s lives, and the media has got to do better.  I’m glad they’re now beginning to pay the price.


Hat Tip: The Atlantic, Daily Mail

Image Credit: Wikipedia

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.