A $250 million lawsuit — filed by the lawyers for the family of the allegedy smug MAGA loving Covington Catholic schoolboy Nick Sandmann against The Washington Post — has been dismissed by a federal judge.
Sandmann, was the center of a controversy after his face was depicted across social media, along with Native American protester Nathan Phillips. The encounter happened in January, during a trip Sandmann and classmates from Covington Catholic High School made to an anti-abortion event.
At one point, Sandmann came face-to-face with a Native American man named Nathan Phillips. Some considered Sandmann’s reaction to Phillips disrespectful, or even worse, with thousands of people weighing in on social media
The lawsuit claimed that the Post “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip and added that the Post engaged in “a modern-day form of McCarthyism” and “ignored basic journalist standards.”
“They didn’t investigate it,” Wood said. “They got it wrong. They published the false narrative and did not publish the truth” and argued that The Post’s first story suggested that Nick had assaulted or physically intimidated Nathan Phillips and engaged in racist taunts
Eastern District Federal Judge William O. Bertelsman wrote that “this is not supported by the plain languages in the article, which states none of these things.”
As the Court explained at oral argument on this motion, in modern libel law there are many affirmative defenses, even for blames based on defamatory statements. These defenses are calculated to protect defendants, especially the press, from strict liability.
“The defense that a statement of opinion is not actionable protects freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“The Court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not to impede or block anyone.“However Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being “blocked” and “not allowed to “retreat.” He passed those conclusions on to The Post They may have been erroneous, but, as discussed above, they are option protected by the First Amendment. And The Post is not liable for publishing those opinions . . “
Bertelsman added that it was irrelevant to the defamation case that Sandmann was scorned on social media.
Lawsuits against CNN and NBC are pending. In all, Sandmann sued for amounts totaling $750 million.