Covington Student Nicholas Sandmann Sues Washington Post for $250 Million

Suit accuses paper of “a modern-day form of McCarthyism”

Last Updated: March 12, 2019 @ 3:31 PM

Nicholas Sandmann, a student at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, on Tuesday filed a $250 million lawsuit against the Washington Post that says the paper defamed him in its coverage of a viral video depicting his encounter last month with a Native American elder in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit contends the Post ran “no less than six false and defamatory articles” about the matter. The suit, posted online by attorneys Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry, says the Post “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap”; falsely accused Sandmann of instigating the incident; and “ignored basic journalist standards” in order “to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump… by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President.”

“In a span of three (3) days in January of this year commencing on January 19, the Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism… to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann,” the suit also says.

“We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit and we plan to mount a vigorous defense,” the Post said in a statement provided to TheWrap.

The lawsuit has the support of the president already, with Trump tweeting about it early Wednesday morning, quoting directly from the suit itself: “The Washington Post ignored basic journalistic standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump.”

“Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!” he added.

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 later 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. The National Review retracted its initial coverage, and apologized to the students. And the Twitter account that first shared the edited version of the encounter was subsequently suspended for violating the site’s policy against “fake and misleading accounts.”

On Jan. 22 the Washington Post published an interview in which Phillips said that some of the people associated with Sandmann chanted “Build that wall, build that wall.” The Post noted that such chants were not audible in the clip and Phillips has denied such chants. And private investigators hired by the Covington Diocese in Kentucky later issued a report stating there was no evidence of the chants.