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Washington Post Tries to Salvage Reputation in Wake of Flawed Covington Reporting

In its “Editor’s note related to Lincoln Memorial incident,” [1] the Washington Post appeared to be trying to cover its legal bases in response to a lawsuit from The Covington High School student [2] featured in a viral video on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial who is suing the Post for $250 million for alleged defamation.

“A Washington Post article first posted online on Jan. 19 reported on a Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial,” the Post wrote. “Subsequent reporting, a student’s statement and additional video allow for a more complete assessment of what occurred, either contradicting or failing to confirm accounts provided in that story — including that Native American activist Nathan Phillips was prevented by one student from moving on, that his group had been taunted by the students in the lead-up to the encounter, and that the students were trying to instigate a conflict.

“The high school student facing Phillips issued a statement [3] contradicting his account; the bishop in Covington, Ky., apologized [4] for the statement [5] condemning the students; and an investigation [6] conducted for the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School found the students’ accounts consistent with videos. Subsequent Post coverage, including video, reported these developments: “Viral standoff between a tribal elder and a high schooler is more complicated than it first seemed [7]”; “Kentucky bishop apologizes to Covington Catholic students, says he expects their exoneration [8]”; “Investigation finds no evidence of ‘racist or offensive statements’ in Mall incident. [9]

A Jan. 22 correction to the original story reads: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that Native American activist Nathan Phillips fought in the Vietnam War. Phillips said he served in the U.S. Marines but was never deployed to Vietnam.”

Wall Street Journal editorial page features editor James Taranto posted a tweet [10] saying, “DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS,” with an image of the Post’s statement, pointing out the irony of the Post’s high-minded motto–created after President Trump’s victory–that the newspaper had failed to shed light in its haste to judgment against the student, who was sporting a Make America Great Again hat.