You may remember the news of the unfortunate confrontation surrounding the Covington Catholic HS group and native American Nathan Phillips in Washington D.C. on January 18 of this year. Media outlets, Hollywood celebrities and even Catholic groups were quick to pile-on blame and condemnation onto 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann, who stood smiling mere inches from Philllips’ face. Video clips edited to make Sandmann look like a bully went viral online January 19, prompting a firestorm of hate and treats against Nicholas and his family.
But the truth is, Nick Sandmann was not the aggressor -- Phillips was. Nick was “guilty” of wearing a red MAGA hat and for standing his ground as Phillips chanted and beat his drum in Sandmann’s face. As more information surfaced, newspapers and other media outlets were forced to issue apologies and retractions. But the damage to Sandmann had already been done. Shockingly, some have not relented and are still blaming the Covington teenagers for causing a scene and escalating tensions that day at the Lincoln Monument.
As it turns out, spreading misinformation has serious consequences. A team of seven attorneys is going after companies and individuals who defamed Sandmann (who is a minor!) and “rushed to condemn and vilify this young man by burying him in an avalanche of false accusations, false portrayals, and cyberbullying that have threatened his reputation and his physical safety.” The Washington Post is being sued for $250 million, and CNN is being sued for $275 million. Lawyers have also sent letters to the NY Times, NPR, TMZ, HBO, The Hill, Warner Media, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Kathy Griffen, Jim Carrey, Alyssa Milano, Bill Maher, and to 39 others.
The Takeaway for us: “...let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Let’s not be in a blind rush to pass judgment but to seek truth, even when it’s not in agreement with our opinion or preconceived ideas. And let’s be kind, especially with fellow Christians. “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law...There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12)