Could a 16-year-old Catholic school student be the catalyst that returns the national media from advocacy back to impartial journalism?
Lawyers for Nick Sandmann, a name many Americans now recognize for being wrongly accused of confronting a Native American activist while waiting for his school's bus at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, have filed a $275 million suit against CNN for making their client the focus of wrong-doing.
They previously filed suit against The Washington Post for doing the same thing.
"Our plan is to come out with an additional lawsuit every few weeks or months," lawyer Todd McMurtry told the "Todd Starnes Radio Show" earlier this week. "But right now we're looking very carefully at NBC, AP, HBO. And again, HBO is primarily because they carried Bill Maher's disgusting comments about Nicholas Sandmann. So these probably are the next three defendants."
On the surface, you might consider the consecutive lawsuits, the amount of the CNN filing and the plans for additional litigation, and believe the attorneys are — themselves — making a mockery of the situation.
But we believe it is going to take something momentous to jolt national media outlets that have jumped so far outside their goal — which should be impartiality — back on track. Settlements of $275 million against one, two, three, four, five or more sources might send that message.
And let's face it, many more subjects are out there who have been wronged because members of the media did not like what they stood for. But the subjects didn't have the connections, the time, the money or the wherewithal to seek counsel and determine what is necessary to take a big swing at their pursuers.
The pseudo criminal element in Sandmann's January incident was his hat — a red cap with the words "Make America Great Again" stitched on it. Nothing infuriates the left wing and its national media partners more than that hat.
It's a reminder that they — Democrats and the national media — could not do what was supposed to be the simple act of defeating one Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential race. It's a reminder that their polls were wrong, their understanding of the electorate was wrong and their confidence in Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was misplaced.
Since then, now more than two years later, heaping criticism on Trump, his policies and his supporters has been their raison d'état.
Which brings us to Sandmann, who short video clips seemed to indicate was confronting an elderly American Indian activist. But longer clips show Sandmann's group already had been harassed by another group and that he was just trying to defuse the situation — with an enigmatic smirk that only seemed to further make him the villain — when the activist confronted him.
The news outlets mentioned above, once the red hat had been identified (and the boy's attendance at a pro-life rally), ran with the kid-as-the-bad-guy story. They didn't bother to investigate or to double- and triple-check their sources, once standard journalistic practices. They were on air and in print before the truth could be proven.
The first suit filed by Sandmann's counsel, against The Washington Post, said the newspaper practiced "a modern-day form of McCarthyism" by targeting the teen and "using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles ... to smear a young boy who was, in its view, an acceptable casualty in their war against the president."
Since then, the newspaper published an editor's note admitting subsequent information either contradicted or failed to confirm accounts relayed in its initial article about the video.
The CNN suit filed this week said the cable news network "elevated false, heinous accusations of racist conduct" against Sandmann and failed to adhere to "well-established journalistic standards and ethics." The network has yet to apologize or retract information.
As for Maher, on the HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher," the host said, "I don't blame the kid, the smirk-face kid. I blame lead poisoning and bad parenting. And, oh yeah, I blame the f—-ing kid, what a little pr—-. Smirk face, like that's not a d—- move at any age to stick your face in this elderly man."
He followed that with a crude reference to the non-related Catholic Church sex scandal, saying he "does not get what Catholic priests see in these kids."
McMurtry said in an interview with Fox News that the aim of the suits is what this page believes all Americans should want — to change the "mainstream media's" behavior.
"Clearly what we want to do is stop them from behaving in a way that discards all journalistic integrity," he said. "Here they didn't investigate. They took something off Twitter and put it right into the media."
Trust in media fell to an all-time low in 2016, with only 32 percent of Americans saying they report the news "fully, accurately and fairly." It has recovered slightly since then, but the Sandmann story and the subsequent Jussie Smollett incident are likely to sink it again.
We would hope the goal of having the public trust outweighs that of the media's desire to hurt Trump, but we're not convinced. If it has to take lawsuit settlements in the hundreds of millions of dollars to get them to change, that's regrettable. But so be it.