President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning eagerly voiced his support for a lawsuit against The Washington Post, filed on behalf of 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student who confronted Native American activist Nathan Philips at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. last month.
Sandmann’s lawyers are seeking $250 million.
The lawsuit alleges that, by covering the viral confrontation along with other media outlets, the Post “engaged in a modern day form of McCarthyism…to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified and threatened Nicholas Sandmann.”
“The Post ignored basic journalistic standards because it wanted to advance its well known and easily documented biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump,” Sandmann’s lawyers wrote. “The Post must be dealt with in the same way that every bully is dealt with and that is hold the bully fully accountable for its wrongdoing.”
Sandmann is seeking $250 million because that was the amount Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid to purchase the paper in 2013.
Trump, unsurprisingly, was elated. “Go get them Nick. Fake News!” he tweeted Wednesday morning.
Immediately prior to congratulating Sandmann, Trump launched into a diatribe against the press. “They are totally out of control,” he tweeted. “Sadly, I kept many of them in business. In six years, they all go BUST!”
Later in the morning he tweeted that The New York Times was the “true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.”
The suit is being headed by L. Lin Wood, who previously handled a media defamation suit filed by the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. Lin promised on Tuesday that the “agenda-driven mainstream & social media mob of bullies who attacked, vilified and threatened a child, Nick Sandmann, will be hearing our footsteps,” claiming the filing was “the first step on a long journey.”
A spokeswoman for the Post said this week the company had received a copy of the suit and that it planned to mount a “vigorous defense.”
The initial video of the Covington students, including Sandmann, showed them surrounding and mocking Nathan Philips as he tried to defuse a potential confrontation between the students and members of the Black Israelite cult.
Soon after, however, “alternate videos” started to emerge which professed to show that Sandmann and his fellow students were supposedly trying to defend themselves from Philips and the Black Israelites, and media outlets soon started shifting their position from describing the incident as racist to one that was “complicated.”
In the aftermath, Sandmann’s family hired a PR firm, founded by a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to help them navigate the media attention.
Trump, an early supporter of the Covington students who claimed the boys were representative of the “evils” of “fake news,” has a long history of denigrating media reports he finds unfavorable. He has defended his persistently hostile rhetoric against the press as good faith efforts to encourage “fairer” reporting. In an interview with New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger earlier in February, he said that reporting, “if it describes [events] accurately and fairly it’s a very very important and beautiful thing.”
In reality, Trump’s hostility to the press, including this latest Twitter barrage, is having a marked real world effect. Last week, a BBC cameraman was attacked by a Trump supporter at an El Paso rally where the president was speaking. Cesar Sayoc, the man accused of mailing pipe bombs to CNN, was also an alleged and avid Trump supporter, frequently attending rallies and plastering his vehicle with pro-Trump stickers and signage.