“CNN’s vicious attack on Nicholas included at least four (4) defamatory television broadcasts and nine (9) defamatory online articles…”
Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington, Kentucky teen maligned by the media, has filed his second lawsuit.
The first lawsuit was against The Washington Post, Covington teen Nicholas Sandmann sues The Washington Post for defamation:
You know the story of the Covington Catholic High School kids who were maligned by the media when Native American activist Nathan Phillips, accompanied by a phalanx of videographers, approached them to create a confrontation.
Nicholas Sandmann did nothing other than stand there as Phillips invaded his personal space and banged a drum inches from Sandmann’s face. The fact that Sandmann was wearing a MAGA hat infuriated liberal media and social media. That Sandmann smiled during the encounter was called a “white privileged” smirk, and led to taunts from some famous people that he should be punched in the face.
When the full video came out, it became clear that Sandmann was the victim in this encounter, not the aggressor. There were some apologies, but for the most part the media that had tarred and feathered Sandmann did nothing to clean up the mess they made.
Sandmann has hired high profile lawyer Linn Wood from Atlanta, and Todd McMurty from Mitchell, KY. Document preservation demands were sent to dozens of media entities and celebrities. Now suit has been filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky for defamation.
I expressed questions and doubts about whether Sandmann’s lawsuit against WaPo would survive a motion to dismiss:
I’ve read the Complaint, but it is hard to find specific false statements about Sandmann. As the Complaint states many times, Sandmann relies on the alleged ” false and defamatory gist” of WaPo’s coverage (that phrase appears 24 times). Many of the statements attributed to WaPo that contributed to this gist are the repetition of statements from Phillips and others as part of the news coverage that create the impression (sometimes explicitly so) that the students (and by implication Sandmann) were the aggressors. I wonder, though, whether those conclusions by WaPo were opinions as a legal matter and thus protected by the First Amendment.
So my gut is telling me there may be some legal problems surviving a motion to dismiss. I’ll be looking for solid legal analysis by others on this. If you find any analysis that’s not just wishful thinking, please post in the comments.
Here are some of the key allegations:
11. Between January 19 and January 25, 2019, CNN brought down the full force of its corporate power, influence, and wealth on Nicholas by falsely attacking, vilifying, and bullying him despite the fact that he was a minor child.
12. 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. to attend the January 18 March for Life.
13. CNN’s vicious attack on Nicholas included at least four (4) defamatory television broadcasts and nine (9) defamatory online articles falsely accusing Nicholas and his Covington Catholic High School (“CovCath”) classmates of, among other things, engaging in racist conduct by instigating a threatening confrontation with several African American men (“the Black Hebrew Israelites”) and subsequently instigating a threatening confrontation with Native Americans who were in the midst of prayer following the Indigenous Peoples March at the National Mall.
14. More specifically, CNN falsely asserted that Nicholas and his CovCath classmates were in a “racis[t]” “mob mentality” and “looked like they were going to lynch” the Black Hebrew Israelites who were merely “preaching about the Bible nearby” “because they didn’t like the color of their skin” and “their religious views,” and that Nicholas and his classmates then “surrounded” one of the Native Americans, 64-year old Nathan Phillips, creating “a really dangerous situation” during which Nicholas “blocked [Phillips’] escape” when Phillips tried “to leave” the mob, causing Phillips to “fear for his safety and the safety of those with him,” while Nicholas and his classmates “harassed and taunted” him.
15. 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.
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36. In order to fully compensate Nicholas for the reputational harm, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by CNN’s false attacks, this action seeks compensatory damages in excess of Seventy-Five Million Dollars ($75,000,000.00).
37. In order to punish and to deter CNN from ever again engaging in false, reckless, malicious, and agenda-driven attacks against children in violation of well recognized journalistic standards and ethics, this action seeks punitive damages in excess of Two Hundred Million Dollars ($200,000,000.00).
I have the same questions about the legal sufficiency of the CNN case as the WaPo case.
There is no doubt that Nicholas Sandmann was maligned and treated horribly by the media, including WaPo and CNN. But the legal landscape is very friendly to the press, so we’ll have to see how this unfolds in court.