Jul 28, 2020

Why the Sandmann Settlement Shows the Importance of Libel Laws


Crucial to Understanding How Libel Works in Media and Courts.

Projection is the tool many in the media use to harm their corporate or political enemies. Projection happens when you accuse your foes of being, well, being like you. We saw it on fake news sites like Washington Post ("WaPo") when they destroyed the reputation of Nigerian, Christian brain injury doctor, Benton Omalu and others. It seems like Christians are prime targets. After all, they won't threaten to behead your family if you insult Jesus. And they support traditional values like hard work, marriage, and a two-parent family.

The recent announcement that former Covington high school student Nicholas Sandmann settled his lawsuit against the Washington Post was instructive. He sued over WaPo's biased news coverage stemming from a January 2019 incident. Sandmann also settled with CNN and wrote on Twitter that there were six more lawsuits in the process. He even implied that Twitter itself would be challenged, as seen below:

Below, we will discuss some of the particulars of the case and how legal opinion has changed over the decades. We also talk about our legal perspective.

A Civil Rights Attorney's Perspective?

I'm writing as the head of a law firm. As the lead attorney for one of Southern California's leading personal injury firms, I feel like I have one foot in each world here. My work has been featured in the local press, including the LA Daily Journal and Leatherneck magazine. This allows me a unique perspective on the role of a free press. It also affords me an understanding of the responsibilities of such a press. My time in the United States Marine Corps and law school grant me the experience to talk about both the history of libel cases as well as Mr. Sandmann's case itself.

A Little History About Libel Laws.

Such laws are not meant to be used lightly. In some ways, proving a libel case is particularly hard. By having a high bar, it prevents people from filing nuisance suits. It also prevents individuals from just using the law as a means to censor the press. Striking the right balance is key-- especially in our modern-day or electronic news and info. In the past, the same was the case. On the one hand, it was the government itself that was restricted from using its power to censor the press.

Even in cases of reporting that it didn't like. Take a page back from high school history to think of the first major press case in American history. This is the case of New York press magnate John Peter Zenger. Zenger ran the New-York Weekly Journal in the early 1700s. He disagreed with the colonial governor of the time, William Cosby. Zenger's newspaper ran articles against the crown governor, leading to major scorn from the government.

Zenger was charged by the New York government by libel. He was defended in court in a high profile case that was a major turning point in both colonial and legal history. As a result of his trial, many colonists began to consider the full scope of legal rights and restrictions. Furthermore, it set a valuable precedent against government abuse against freedom of speech or the press. The result of the case was a jury deliberation of just ten minutes before finding Zenger not guilty. The same idea is still prevalent in our modern society.

Modernly, government influence and control over the press is party based. Starting with campus cancel culture, "journalism school" professors groom students to be tools for the democrat party. Fox has it's news channel for the republicans and the Marxists have CNN, WaPo, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and pretty much every other major news network.

What Orwell said is true and hi-lited in the hit piece these media allies perpetrated against Sandmann:

"Political language — and with variations, this is true of all political parties, from conservatives to anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.'" (Source).

About Private Libel Suits.

The Zenger case above shows the restraints government at all levels must show towards a freely operating press. However, it does not give the press a free hand to use their ink to destroy someone. Libel cases are often difficult to win because they involve two different attributes. As Cornell Law explains, there are several important precedents to consider. For public officials and public figures, there is a need for malice included in such a case in order to win. This was set by the precedent of 1967's Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts.

Furthermore, precedent from 1974's Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc, courts found that there is a liability due to the knowledge of falsity or a "reckless disregard for the truth." This will be important later. Furthermore, as especially important related to the Sandmann case, is the 1985 case of Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders, Inc.

In this case, the Supreme Court found that libel may be adjudicated differently in cases involving private individuals and for matters of private concern. For example, in cases such as these, damages can be awarded at a lower standard below actual malice. The First Amendment does not cover cases in which damages occurred to a public figure without the showing of malice "as long as the defamatory statements do not involve issues of public concern."

The Sandmann Libel Case.

All of this background brings us to the current day. In the case of Nicholas Sandmann, courts set a new precedent. And one that is especially relevant to our modern political and social landscape. Mr. Sandmann was accused by the media of being a white, racist, homophobic, bigot, etc., due to his class's interaction with a native elder during a January 2019 visit to Washington DC. Standing in front of the Washington Monument, Mr. Sandmann was videotaped smiling at the elder who approached Sandmann and the students and got in their faces.

This was described by left-wing press associates as white supremacy, claiming any number of false attributes to the high school students. One of the accusations was that the students chanted "build the wall." This did not happen. Threats against Mr. Sandmann and his classmates were rampant, with famous cases of death threats against the young man. As he said, "It's a constant threat, and it's a terrible threat. But you can't choose to live your life in fear, or they've won, and they robbed you of your life."

What made this case different than others can be explained in two parts. On the one hand, was the incredible rush to judgment by members of the so-called media. Since Sandmann was wearing a Make America Great Again hat, there was an opportunity to paint both the student and his classmates with a brush of racism, claiming that the students hated natives. Using a combination of camera angles and false narratives, the so-called press said that Sandmann and his school colleagues approached an American Indian with a drum and intimidated him, all lies. Of course, the uncut video shows that Sandmann and his friends were leading a demonstration against the racist, Margaret Sanger's legacy against the black community, abortion.

Remarkably, they had their lives threatened by the anti-semitic, pro BLM organization, the "Black Hebrew Israelites."

"Anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelites assert that white people are agents of Satan, Jews are liars and false worshipers of God, and blacks are the true “ chosen people” and are racially superior to other ethnicities." (Source).

The facts relate that:

"...students from his all-boys Kentucky school took a class trip to Washington to participate in a [pro-life] march in January 2019. The students met up at the Lincoln Memorial and were waiting for their bus to return home when they were confronted by a group of Black Hebrew Israelite demonstrators, who hurled racist and homophobic insults at the boys for nearly an hour." (Source). [Emphasis].

"Black Hebrew Israelites, a fringe group in the vicinity of the Sandmann-Phillips incident, were hurling insults at everyone “with hateful intent… [and] appear to me to be the ones who actually started the confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial.'" (Source).

This was when a former Marine and far-left Native American activist approached Sandmann and the students waiting for their bus. The left wing activist started beating a loud drum in their faces. A startled Sandmann stood there smiling but terrified of the black militants who were threatening to kill him and his friends. None of this was reported by CNN, WaPo, or their allies in the so-called news media. Instead, Sandmann and these little kids were made out to be, you guessed it, "racists." Projection, projection, projection.

The truth is that:

"I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that," he said, adding: "I have read that Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the United States Marines. I thank him for his service and am grateful to anyone who puts on the uniform to defend our nation. If anyone has earned the right to speak freely, it is a U.S. Marine veteran." (Source).

Furthermore, was the rush to cover up the fundamental errors in reporting by politically motivated shills, as the settlements against the Washington Post and CNN seem to indicate. Since the original suit was nine figures and the settlement was not public, the two news agencies likely had to pay out an incredible sum to close out the issue. After reading sports journalist, Hobson's WaPo hit piece against Dr. Omalu, it all started making sense. The projection came into full view.

It appeared as though WaPo and its advertising partner, the NFL, with over 70% black players, had projected their hidden racial views on to a black medical doctor. His offense, being a "Nigerian," "Christian" who forced the NFL to admit that CTEs, a type of brain disease, were killing NFL players.

A Lesson For WaPo - Maybe Stop Being A Political and Corporate Tool And Start Reporting REAL News?

Hopefully, this incident will be a major lesson for media figures looking to push a corporate narrative or a political agenda. A young student or medical doctor who supports values like honesty, family and decency, will likely want nothing to do with national politics-- until pushed into a corner. Sandmann was publicly flogged for the political offense of wearing a MAGA hat and supporting the right to life.

Since the election of Donald Trump to the White House, "news" organizations and their friends at the DNC and Silicon Valley have done everything they can to destroy anyone who does not support riots, ANTIFA and flag burning. As buildings and businesses burn and people are assaulted and killed in Oregon and Washington, we are told these are peaceful protests. Joe Stalin and "Che" would be proud.

If a news agency could use its incredible audience to destroy the life of a student or a world-renowned brain injury expert with reckless abandon, they should be held to full account under defamation laws. For more info on this case and related ones, keep reading our legal blog or reach out to Ehline Law Firm directly at losangeles@ehlinelaw.com.

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