Judge Rules on Kentucky Teen's $250M Lawsuit

Nicholas Sandmann says he was falsely labeled as racist
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 27, 2019 10:00 AM CDT

A federal judge has thrown out a Kentucky teen's lawsuit accusing the Washington Post of falsely labeling him a racist following an encounter with a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial, the AP reports. Nicholas Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School, sued the newspaper for $250 million in February, alleging that it had engaged in "targeting and bullying" and modern "McCarthyism." The actions of Sandmann and his classmates were intensely debated after video and photographs emerged of them wearing "Make America Great Again" hats near a Native American man playing a drum. President Donald Trump cheered the lawsuit, posting to Twitter that "Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!"

Federal judge William Bertelsman ruled that there may have been "erroneous" opinions published by the Post, but they are protected by the First Amendment. Both Sandmann and the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, say they were trying to defuse tensions rising among three groups on a day when Washington hosted both the anti-abortion March for Life, attended by the Covington students, and the Indigenous Peoples March. Judge Bertelsman said he accepted Sandmann's contention that "when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation." But he noted that Phillips asserted that he was being blocked from passing, and Phillips' opinion was reported by the newspaper. "They may have been erroneous ... but they are opinion protected by The First Amendment," Bertelsman wrote. (Sandmann's attorneys also sued CNN.)

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