Lawyers for Covington Catholic high school student Nicholas Sandmann on Tuesday filed a $275 million defamation suit against CNN, saying the network’s coverage of the student’s encounter with Native American tribal elder Nathan Phillips in January constituted a “vicious attack” against his client.
“In short, the false and defamatory gist of CNN’s collective reporting conveyed to its viewers and readers that Nicholas was the face of an unruly hate mob of hundreds of white racist high school students who physically assaulted, harassed, and taunted two different minority groups engaged in peaceful demonstrations, preaching, song, and prayer,” according to the suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.
“The CNN accusations are totally and unequivocally false and CNN would have known them to be untrue had it undertaken any reasonable efforts to verify their accuracy before publication of its false and defamatory accusations,” the suit added, citing four TV broadcasts and nine online articles it considers defamatory.
Sandmann seeks $75 million in compensatory damages for “the reputational harm, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by CNN’s false attacks” as well as $200 million in punitive damages.
“Contrary to its ‘Facts First’ public relations ploy, CNN ignored the facts and put its anti-Trump agenda first in waging a 7-day media campaign of false, vicious attacks against Nicholas, a young boy who was guilty of little more than wearing a souvenir Make America Great Again cap while on a high school field trip to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.,” the suit reads.
Reps for CNN did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
Last month, Sandmann filed a similar suit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million. After the filing of that suit, the Post said in a statement provided to TheWrap, “We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit and we plan to mount a vigorous defense.”
A video posted on social media Jan. 19 depicted an edited version of events that occurred the day before. It shows several students and Nathan Phillips, and some viewers believed the teens were mocking Phillips.
The clip sparked widespread outrage and condemnation, but Sandmann denied any racist intent, and told the Associated Press he was trying to de-escalate the situation.
A longer video of the incident posted Jan. 21 showed that Phillips and his group had first initiated the encounter with the Covington students and that the students had earlier been subjected to harassment from a different organization. Several media figures subsequently disavowed their initial statements about the incident.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.