Covington High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s lawyer says that CNN’s Brian Stelter and others committed a “breach of confidentiality agreement” when they tweeted about the defamation cases against their media organizations that were settled for undisclosed sums.
Attorney Lin Wood represented Sandmann in two defamation cases against CNN and The Washinton Post over their reporting of Sandmann’s encounter with a Native American tribal elder on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in January 2019. CNN settled the case in January, while the Post settled last week, but details of the cases were made available to TheWrap. Wood went after CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host after he retweeted a post from attorney Mark S. Zaid.
Zaid was replying to a tweet that has since been deleted, so its contents were not immediately clear. But Zaid’s unfavorable view of Sandmann’s lawsuits were evident without the source material. He wrote, “I’ve litigated defamation cases. Sandman was undoubtedly paid nuisance value settlement & nothing more.”
Wood tweeted a screenshot of Stelter’s account that shows his retweet of Zaid’s post, and he wrote, “This retweet by @brianstelter may have cost him his job at @CNN. It is called breach of confidentiality agreement. Brian Stelter is a liar. I know how to deal with liars.”
Wood doubled down when responding to Rangappa, saying, “Heads are going to roll at CNN or @N1ckSandmann is going to filing another lawsuit & reveal truth.” Wood also tweeted a similar statement about Washington Post journalist Dan Zak, who, according to a screenshot of his post, outlined how settlements work and said it “makes sense” the Post would settle. He added that a settlement stops the defendant from admitting fault but said “there was none” in the Post’s case.
Some legal commentators then came to the defense of the journalists and disagreed with Wood’s characterization of Stelter’s retweet or any potential employment-related penalties.
ProPublica editor Jesse Eisenger wrote, “Hmmm, looks like @LLinWood doesn’t understand the law but seems willing to file nuisance lawsuits.” He was one of a number of legal experts to point out that Wood’s tweet could be interpreted as confirmation that he got “nuisance value.”
Representatives for CNN and the Post did not immediately return a request for comment on Wood’s claim about their employees’ futures. Wood did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on whether more legal action is forthcoming or if his tweet about Stelter confirms he got “nuisance value.”
Sandmann filed a $275 million defamation suit against CNN in March 2019, saying the network’s coverage of the student’s encounter with Native American tribal elder Nathan Phillips in January of that year constituted a “vicious attack” against his client.