A judge decided Nicholas Sandmann does not have grounds to sue The Washington Post for their coverage of his run-in with a Native American protestor.
What We Know:
- Nicholas Sandmann made headlines after videos of him smirking in the face of Nathan Phillips went viral in January.
- Sandmann, a student at Covington High School in Kentucky, filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post in February. The suit accused WAPO of “using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the president.”
- Sandmann’s family was seeking $250 million in damages. The family also has lawsuits pending against CNN and NBC.
- The paper covered the events that unfolded when a group of Covington Catholic High School students attending the March for Life in Washington D.C. clashed with another group of individuals who were attending the Indigenous Peoples March.
- Sandmann recounts that while waiting for their buses at the Lincoln Memorial, a group of Black Hebrew Israelites began harassing and threatening them with violence.
- Court documents state that at this time, the group of Native Americans approached the teens and began “singing and dancing and recording a video.”
- Sandmann stated that he remained silent during the entire interaction and was trying to “defuse the situation.”
- Sandmann challenged seven articles and three tweets from WAPO.
- Judge William O. Bertelsman ruled that the reporting did not qualify as defamation and conveyed the opinions of the protestor, Nathan Phillips.
- The judge also stated that some of the articles did not even name Sandmann in the posts.
- Bertelsman explained, ”He [Phillips] concluded that he was being ‘blocked’ and not allowed to ‘retreat.’ He passed these conclusions on to The Post. They may have been erroneous, but, as discussed above, they are opinion protected by the First Amendment. And The Post is not liable for publishing these opinions, for the reasons discussed in this Opinion.”
- Ted Sandmann, Nicholas’ father released a statement expressing dissatisfaction with the decision, he said, “I believe fighting for justice for my son and family is of vital national importance. If what was done to Nicholas is not legally actionable, then no one is safe.”
- Nicholas Sandmann has not responded to request for comment.
We will continue to follow this story.