One might expect that CNN would come away from their costly lawsuit with Nick Sandmann chagrined, chastened, and ready to do better in the future. In what may be the first successful lawsuit of the Fake News Era, CNN settled with the Covington Catholic teen for an undisclosed amount last week, stemming from their incendiary (and more importantly, factually incorrect) coverage of his standoff with a Native American at the Lincoln Memorial last January. Having been forced to part with what is likely millions of dollars for their adventures in slander, CNN will surely rethink their position on reporting unverified stories in the future.
Surely, the media at large has learned their lesson.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, media ethics law professor Charles Glasser said that is unlikely.
“No, they don’t learn,” the New York University professor said. “I keep wishing and I keep hoping that they will learn their lesson, that being responsible instead of being first wins the day.”
Glasser said that CNN’s commitment to blurring the lines between punditry, reporting, and liberal activism was clear in their arguments to the court. It was in those arguments that CNN insisted that they could not be held accountable for calling Sandmann a “racist,” seeing as how that was an opinion and not a fact-based assertion.
“[CNN] initially filed a motion to dismiss, making the argument that calling somebody a ‘racist’ is not a provable fact and therefore does not rise to the level of libel,” Glasser said. “I think it’s extremely telling—it really got overlooked—that CNN argued that there can’t be a factual basis for calling somebody a racist.
“It’s fascinating that there is a news organization that will look the [audience] right in the eye and say, ‘We report facts and the fact is, Trump is a racist,’” Glasser continued. “To go into court and say that it’s not a possible fact, it can’t be a fact, that’s a disconnect that really deserves, from a societal standpoint, some thought and discussion.”
Yeah, it’s telling, isn’t it? CNN’s legal argument is barely distinguishable from the one Alex Jones used to defend himself in the Sandy Hook case. He argued to the court that his Infowars show is merely entertainment, and that he is not to be confused with making factual, journalistic statements. Is CNN essentially admitting the same thing about their still (somehow) respected news organization? That they’re really no different, at the end of the day, then Infowars?
Will the last viewer of this trash turn off the lights on the way out?