Remember Nicholas Sandmann, the MAGA hat-wearing teen from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic School who stood toe to toe with a Native American elder during a protest in Washington, D.C.? (I know, it seems like ages ago, but this just happened in January!)
Well, after videos of that staredown went viral, the Washington Post interviewed the elder and activist, Nathan Phillips, about that confrontation between and him and the 17-year-old teen as his classmates surrounded them during the March for Life rally. Phillips said that he marched toward a crowd as they shouted, “build that wall, build that wall” in an attempt to play peacemaker. The Washington Post notes that those chants were not heard in the videos.
From the Post:
It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.
Well, Sandmann did some interviews of his own, claiming it was he who was trying to make the peace. But he said that the Post story and others like it portrayed him
as a racist little shit in an unfair light and that he faced death threats as a result.
So his parents filed a lawsuit on Nicholas’ behalf, accusing “The Post’s coverage of being libelous, and called for the newspaper to pay $250 million in damages for ‘a series of false and defamatory print and online articles’ about Sandmann,” CBS News reports.
But on Friday, the judge overseeing the case dismissed that suit, saying that stories about Sandmann needed to be “more than annoying, offensive or embarrassing” in order to rise to the level of defamation.
The judge who oversaw the case, William O. Bertlesman, said in his dismissal, “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 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.”
“From our first story on this incident to our last, we sought to report fairly and accurately the facts that could be established from available evidence, the perspectives of all of the participants, and the comments of the responsible church and school officials,” Washington Post director of communications Shani George said in a statement, CNN reports. “We are pleased that the case has been dismissed.”
Of course, the Sandmann family plans to appeal the decision, because…well, I’m not going to say anything that might get The Root sued.
“I believe fighting for justice for my son and family is of vital national importance,” Nicholas’ father Ted Sandmann said in a statement, CNN notes. “If what was done to Nicholas is not legally actionable, then no one is safe.”