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Washington Post asks federal court to throw out Covington Catholic student's defamation lawsuit

The student is suing the newspaper for $250 million

Image source: YouTube screenshot

The Washington Post is trying to get a defamation lawsuit filed against it by one of the Covington Catholic High School students dismissed.

Remind me, what happened again?

During the annual March for Life on Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C., a video clip emerged that seemed to show a Kentucky high school student, Nicholas Sandmann, in a red "Make America Great Again" hat smugly grinning in the face of a Native American activist. The video clip generated outrage and led to calls for Covington Catholic High School to punish the student. Both CNN and the Washington Post reported extensively on this initial video.

Later, further videos emerged showing the Native American man walking into the group of students, rather than the students confronting him.

After these later videos emerged, Sandmann sued the Washington Post for $250 million in damages. Soon afterward, his attorneys announced a second lawsuit, this one against CNN for $275 million in damages. The lawsuit alleges that the reporting by these outlets did "permanent harm" to Sandmann's reputation, and that he now has to "live his life in a constant state of concern over his safety."

According to the Post, Sandmann's "$250 million figure for damages was arrived at because that is the sum that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid for The Post in 2013."

What happened now?

On Tuesday, the Post asked a federal court to throw out the lawsuit. According to a story on this update by the Post, the paper "asserts its stories were accurate and did not impugn the reputation of Covington (Ky.) Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, who entered a social media storm through video footage shot during a chaotic afternoon."

The Post said in its motion to dismiss that the initial articles on the incident "may not have been flattering of the Covington Catholic Students ... but they do not give rise to a defamation claim by Sandmann." The motion also says that "the Post's overall coverage — including the articles that the Complaint fails to mention — was not only accurate; it was ultimately favorable to him [Sandmann]."

When it comes to public figures like the president or a member of Congress, it's almost impossible to successfully sue a news publication for libel. Sandmann will have a greater chance of successfully proving a libel case since he is not a public figure, although it is unclear if he will be able to convince a jury that he deserves the more than half-a-billion dollars he's seeking from the Post and CNN.

One last thing…
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