Attorney L. Lin Wood
© Apu Gomes / Getty Images
Attorney L. Lin Wood speaks to the media about his client British rescue diver Vernon Unsworth as they arrive at U.S. District Court on Dec. 3, 2019, in Los Angeles.
The other day, as my friend and Tribune colleague Kristen McQueary and I were filling in as hosts on the national broadcast of The Dan Proft Show, we took a call.

The caller's name is L. Lin Wood. He's a famous libel lawyer from Atlanta who's been called "The Lawyer for the Damned."

Wood had read my weekend column about two innocent Americans wrongly shamed by the media mob — Nicholas Sandmann and the late Richard Jewell — and wanted to talk.

Wood represented Jewell. And now he's one of the lawyers for Sandmann.

"What the media did to Richard Jewell and Nicholas Sandmann did not destroy them," Wood said. "But it damaged them badly."


Comment: Jewell was hounded by the media for several months, and portrayed as a disgruntled "lone bomber." He was eventually cleared of involvement that October, and issued an apology by US Attorney General Janet Reno a year later. He died of a heart attack in 2007, after suffering health problems his mother claims were brought about by the stress of his "trial by media."


If you're a parent, can you imagine your child given such unfair media treatment visited upon Sandmann, a teenager, just last January?

It's unimaginable, and in this cancel culture we live in, it's something parents fear.

Sandmann was the Kentucky high school student in the MAGA cap favored by supporters of President Donald Trump. The high schooler was vilified, wrongly, as a smirking racist. The howls from the media were relentless.

And Jewell, the security guard from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, spotted a bomb and saved lives. But he, too, was unfairly targeted and shamed by an FBI leaker and the media as the prime bombing suspect. He wasn't the bomber. The real bomber was Eric Rudolph.

I had quoted Joy Behar, a co-host of a mean-girls news talk program on ABC called "The View." She explained why the media hounded the innocent Sandmann, who wore the MAGA hat.

"'Cause we're desperate to get Trump out of office, that's why," said Behar.

Bingo.

The message was clear: Dare support Trump, and those with media power like Behar will shame you.

Wood agreed with the assessment.

Like I said, Wood was a lawyer for Jewell, the subject of a superb film, "Richard Jewell," by Clint Eastwood. Wood is also part of the legal team representing Sandmann, who recently settled a libel suit against CNN that originally asked for $275 million.

Many TV news networks and other news shops have avoided mention of the settlement. Wood would not discuss the terms, which have not been disclosed.

But he did talk at length about the media mob, political bias and what drives it against innocents like Jewell, and Sandmann.

Journalists set out to destroy Sandmann because the boy was perceived to be a Trump supporter, Wood said.

The boy and his classmates were at the March for Life in Washington. Afterward, they were confronted with ugly, racist slurs delivered by black protesters. Then a Native American activist, Nathan Phillips, confronted Sandman with the drum. He was the aggressor. Sandmann did nothing.

But Sandmann was portrayed as a racist.

"The media attempted to destroy him, and in the process they badly damaged him, and I believe they did so, in the main, because of the cap he was wearing," Wood told us. "They didn't care what they said or did to Nicholas. They just saw him as an object to use to attack President Trump. Because he was wearing the red cap, they assumed he was a Trump supporter, but I've never asked Nicholas that question."

Wood invoked the term "deplorables" used by Hillary Clinton in a failed attempt to shame Trump voters in 2016.

"I guess you could say that they felt he was a 'deplorable,' and so they didn't care what happened to a 'deplorable' and they didn't care what they did to a 'deplorable,'" Wood said. "But they did it. It was a lie. And they badly damaged him and those who did that should be held accountable."

Wood said Sandmann's legal team is pursuing similar lawsuits against The Washington Post, NBC and will file suit against other news shops.

When Jewell spotted that bomb in the backpack at Olympic Park, then was depicted as the bomber, it set up an irresistible storyline, Wood said.

"Richard was portrayed as a likely bomber, someone who would intentionally create a terrorist act designed to kill and maim innocent people," Wood said.

"The truth was and is that Richard Jewell was a hero," Wood told us. "His actions that night at the (Olympic) Park saved the lives of over 100 people, because he alerted authorities about the package near the (broadcast) tower that he was responsible for."

But Jewell didn't stop there.

"He didn't cut and run," Wood said. "He went into the tower that he was responsible for and he single-handedly evacuated every person from that tower.

"So, the heroism of Richard Jewell never really was fully exposed to the public, because the media couldn't resist the headline, 'Hero Turns Bomber.'"

As I mentioned in the previous column, I enjoyed the Clint Eastwood movie "Richard Jewell," though it contains a serious flaw — an unproven allegation that a now-deceased Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter offered to trade sex to an FBI agent for a leak that Jewell was the prime suspect.

"The Richard Jewell story is a very good story," said Wood. "I lived the truth of what happened to Richard. And the truth to me is still raw."

He said he has no plans to see the film because of how it portrays the AJC reporter.

But he offers a warning for those of us in the media, in a business that has taken narrowcasting to the extreme, eagerly shaping content to appeal to this political demographic or that one, and desperate for clicks and eyeballs.

"It's not frightening as to the number of people who watch," Wood said. "What's frightening is that in today's world, they're not hearing the truth. And that's frightening."