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That Smirking MAGA Teen Is Suing the Washington Post & Donald Trump Is Cheering Him On


An oversized replica of a 'Make America Great Again' hat sits on the grass across from the White House during a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Nicholas Sandmann, the kid whose smirking face went viral last month when he and his Kentucky Catholic school friends appeared to surround an Omaha tribe elder during the March for Life protest in Washington D.C., is suing the Washington Post over coverage of that incident.

Video of the encounter showed Sandmann standing uncomfortably and apparently threateningly close the man, Nathan Phillips, smirking in his face while Phillips beat a drum. Sandmann’s friends, many of whom were, like Sandmann, wearing Make America Great Again hats, stood in the background appearing to harass and mock Phillips–shouting, laughing, and clapping aggressively.

When a longer video was released, people appeared to see two different things. The Covington kids were in a heated confrontation with several black protestors who identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites when Phillips approached. To many, it seemed clear that he was trying to diffuse the situation. He later said that the song he was playing on his drum was part of a ceremony to send spirits home and that his playing was “a supplication to God.” He also said that Sandmann “blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

Others watched the video and saw Phillips as an aggressor, joining in the confrontation of children. They saw Sandmann’s expression as being one of nervousness, not arrogance. And a whole lot of media time was devoted to letting this kid make that argument.

Now, Sandmann is suing the Washington Post for $250 million over their initial coverage. The suit claims that “the Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann (‘Nicholas’), an innocent secondary school child.”

“The Post wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap,” it reads. “The Post bullied an innocent child with an absolute disregard for the pain and destruction its attacks would cause to his life.”

The lawsuit repeatedly refers to Sandmann’s MAGA hat as a “souvenir” and insists that he “has zero history of political activism or aggressiveness.” They say this, despite the fact that he and his classmates were in D.C. for a political event–at which, they reportedly acted pretty aggressively.

While their faces aren’t really visible, the woman in the video said she was “positive” they were the same boys.

But Sandmann’s lawyers are working hard to depict him as an innocent child. They refer to him throughout by his first name (while calling Phillips by his last). They insist he can’t possibly have any established political beliefs–again, despite wearing a MAGA hat at an anti-choice protest. Sandmann, they say, is just an innocent casualty in the Post’s quest to “advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump.”

And wouldn’t you guess, Trump is all over those accusations.

This isn’t the first time he’s spoken out in support of Sandmann. Last month, he held the teen up as a symbol of “fake news,” quite possibly planting the idea of a lawsuit in the first place.

But this morning, he went on a “fake news” mini-tirade.

Trump has repeatedly (22 times on Twitter) called the “fake news media” the “enemy of the people,” but this appears to be the first time he’s directly applied that title to a specific outlet. It’s a move that many see as furthering Trump’s endangerment of journalists.

(image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.