CNN and Brian Stelter (among a few others) may be in a bit of hot water. As I wrote recently, Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic student who was slandered by numerous news outlets, settled another lawsuit, this time with The Washington Post.
That legal victory apparently triggered some people, as a few media personalities went out to proclaim his lawsuits were essentially a nuisance and that neither media outlet paid him much money.
First, it was someone by the name of Dan Zak, who works for the Post, who got himself into hot water. The tweet has now been deleted, with his bosses quickly trying to clean up the mess he made.
This per the Washington Examiner.
It makes sense that the Washington Post settled with Sandmann, one of its reporters, Dan Zak, said this weekend in a since-deleted tweet.
“You settle for a small amount – without admitting fault (because there was none) – in order to avoid a more expensive trial that you would nonetheless win,” he added. “It is, you might say, the American way.”
A spokesperson for the Washington Post said Monday that Zak’s tweet was deleted because he has no idea what he is talking about.
“Dan’s tweet was taken down because it had no basis in fact,” she told the Washington Examiner. “Dan has no knowledge about the agreement.”
One of the key things about a settlement of this type is that you aren’t supposed to discuss dollar amounts, nor talk whether someone admitted fault or not (typically, even the “guilty” party doesn’t admit fault in a settlement). Zak’s tweet does both, suggesting Sandmann was given a small payout and that not admitting guilt proves the Post did nothing wrong.
But it wasn’t just Zak. Later, CNN’s Brian Stelter, whose network also paid a settlement to Sandmann for defaming him, retweeted someone’s opinion that said much the same thing. My colleague Sister Toldjah noticed it originally.
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) July 27, 2020
But then Sandmann’s lawyer showed up.
— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) July 27, 2020
A CNN contributor by the name of Asha Rangappa (a noted Russian collusion conspiracy theorist) also speculated on Twitter that CNN only paid out $25,000. For his part, Wood isn’t taking any of this lying down. He put out a statement saying he won’t speak past his Twitter response right now but that he will be taking legal action against both news outlets for what he sees as a breach of confidentiality.
Whether he has a case, I’m not sure. On the one hand, speculation like this may not be covered under the agreement. The agreement also may not apply to every employee of CNN. On the other hand, a judge may not take too kindly to an organization that just settled a lawsuit allowing its employees to go out and essentially belittle and re-slander the plaintiff who accepted the settlement. The claim that Sandmann’s lawsuit was just a “nuisance lawsuit” and that he was paid off with peanuts is intended to present a certain narrative that CNN and the Post didn’t do anything wrong. The entire point of the confidentiality agreement is to stop that.
Regardless, Stelter, Zak, and Rangappa are absolutely dumb for dipping their toe into this. I realize their partisanship won’t allow them to just let this go and that they are desperately trying to save face, but lawsuits like this are not a game. Wood appears to not be the kind of lawyer to trifle with, winning the original lawsuits when most media lawyers were predicting they’d be dismissed. There was simply no reason to kick the hornet’s nest. I suspect the higher-ups at CNN and the Post are not too happy about their employees running their mouths.
We’ll see where this goes and keep you updated.