A blistering federal court ruling confirms exactly what President Donald Trump has warned about this once-respected paper — The Washington Post is no longer “news.”
It’s not sharing fair, balanced and accurate information.
It’s using opinion to spread a left-wing agenda.
That evaluation is hidden inside a decision to toss a $250 million defamation lawsuit filed against The Washington Post by Nicholas Sandmann.
He’s the young student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who was attacked by the media mob for simply standing and smirking as a leftist protestor banged a drum at him.
The coverage went viral, with the media left attacking him for “disrespecting” and “blocking” an elderly Native American man.
His smiling face was plastered on newspapers across the country, led by The Washington Post, and he was attacked online relentlessly.
Given that he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap and had just come from an anti-abortion rally, the media treated him as the poster boy for right-wing extremism.
Just one problem: That’s a narrow and wildly inaccurate version of events – one The Post helped to spread.
So he sued.
His lawsuit listed 33 Post statements alleged to be defamatory, and claimed that the paper created “a series of false and defamatory print and online articles” about him.
The lawsuit also says he suffered “permanent harm to his reputation” as a result of the reports.
What’s more, the lawsuit said 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.”
No doubt he would appear to have had a case given that the newspaper had to run multiple corrections and even delete a tweet.
But U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman tossed out the lawsuit, and The Post crowed over what it treated as a vindication.
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“From our first story on this incident to our last, we sought to report fairly and accurately the facts that could be established from available evidence,” The Post said in a statement cited by The Hill.
Except they didn’t win because they were “fair.”
The judge actually ran the paper through the shredder in his ruling, saying the reporting was “loose, figurative,” and full of “rhetorical hyperbole.”
They also didn’t win because they were “accurate.”
Just the opposite: The judge said some of the quotes in the Post attributed to the drummer, a Native American named Nathan Phillips, turned out to be false.
But, he added, that while the statements were false, the paper’s story wasn’t defamatory because it wasn’t really printing “news” at all.
It was just opinion — and opinions are protected.
“Few principles of law are as well-established as the rule that statements of opinion are not actionable in libel actions,” wrote Bertelsman. “The statements that Sandmann challenges constitute protected opinions that may not form the basis for a defamation claim.”
Essentially, the paper is now nothing more than a left-wing opinion journal — which is just what Trump’s been saying.
And this judge wasn’t a Trump appointee, friendly to the GOP point of view.
He was appointed by former President Jimmy Carter!
The judge also said that the attacks on Sandmann online — no doubt encouraged by the newspapers misleading claims about the incident – don’t have any bearing on the case.
“While unfortunate, it is further irrelevant that Sandmann was scorned on social media,” he wrote.
It’s beyond unfortunate — because the “rhetorical hyperbole” and “loose, figurative” reporting on Sandmann by the Post and others will be part of his reputation forever, just a quick Google search away from anyone seeking information on this young man for the rest of his life.
And that’s the real tragedy of the case.
Fortunately, he still has more court cases pending — so the young man may see some justice yet.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert, and is the author of “America’s Final Warning.”