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Washington Post settles $250 million lawsuit with Covington teen Nick Sandmann

Despite the settlement, the Post has 'admitted no wrongdoing'

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, the Kentucky high school student at the center of a confrontation at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January 2019, announced Friday that he had settled his lawsuit with the Washington Post.

"On 2/19/19, I filed $250M defamation lawsuit against Washington Post. Today, I turned 18 & WaPo settled my lawsuit. Thanks to @ToddMcMurtry & @LLinWood for their advocacy," Sandmann wrote on Twitter. "Thanks to my family & millions of you who have stood your ground by supporting me. I still have more to do."

"We have settled with WAPO and CNN. The fight isn't over. 2 down. 6 to go. Don't hold your breath @jack," Sandmann tweeted, referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Sandmann's lawsuit sought $250 million in damages, which was noted by Sandmann's attorneys as the same amount that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid in 2013 to purchase the Post. The settlement amount was not disclosed.

CNN settled a $275 million defamation lawsuit with Sandmann in January. The settlement amount was also not released.

Sandmann's attorney, Todd McMurtry, told Fox News in March 2019: "CNN's tagline is 'Facts First,' and what we believe their reporting was in this circumstance was lies first, coverup second, and facts not yet determined."

McMurtry alleged that CNN "published four videos, nine online articles, that it tweeted out. So, that's millions and millions of repetitions of the lies and falsehoods that CNN spread."

In January, Sandmann's lead attorney Lin Wood said they are moving forward with lawsuits against NBC Universal. In March 2020, Sandmann's attorneys filed complaints against the New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, Rolling Stone, and Gannett over their reporting on the Covington Catholic high school student.

The lawsuits were brought on because media outlets claimed that Sandmann and other Covington High School students provoked an encounter with Native American activist Nathan Phillips in Washington, D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial. However, video showed that the students had not taunted Phillips or prevented his movement.

"All of the future defendants listed above have published or republished statements made by Nathan Phillips and others that Nicholas blocked or otherwise restricted Phillips' free movement and would not allow Phillips to retreat at the National Mall on January 18, 2019," Sandmann's lawyers wrote in a report filed with U.S. District Court in Covington, Kentucky. "Nicholas reserves his right to file complaints in this is Court or any other court against any other potential defendant not listed above, subject to the applicable statute of limitations."

In February 2019, President Donald Trump voiced support for Sandmann, who was wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat at the time of the incident. President Trump tweeted: "Go get them Nick. Fake News!"

The Post published an article about Friday's settlement with Sandmann in its "Lifestyle" section, which covers topics such as "food," "home & garden," "travel," "parenting," and "wellness."

"The Washington Post has settled a lawsuit brought by the parents of a teenager who alleged that news coverage of the teen's encounter with a Native American activist on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last year was defamatory," the article stated.

"The Post admitted no wrongdoing in settling with the family of Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington, Ky., high school student who was involved in the episode during a school trip to Washington in January 2019," the article continued. "The Post has maintained that its reporting was accurate and fair."

More than a month after the original incident involving the Covington boys and Phillips, the Post issued an editor's note "about updates to its initial coverage."

"Subsequent reporting, a student's statement and additional video allow for a more complete assessment of what occurred, either contradicting or failing to confirm accounts provided in that story," the editor's note read.

In Friday's article, Post stated that Sandmann's parents "alleged The Post had 'targeted and bullied' their son to embarrass Trump — a statement The Post disputed."

"The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted 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," Sandmann's lawsuit alleged, according to the Post. "It claimed The Post went after Sandmann 'because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red Make America Great Again souvenir cap.'"

"But later videos gave a fuller picture of what happened," the newspaper admitted. "They showed that several men, part of a group called the Black Hebrew Israelites, had been shouting racial epithets and homophobic slurs at the waiting Covington students."

"We are pleased that we have been able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the remaining claims of the lawsuit," Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti said.

One last thing…
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