Nick Sandmann, the high school student at the center of a video at the Lincoln Memorial that went viral last year, said he has settled a defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post over its coverage.
Sandmann tweeted on Friday, “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. Thanks to my family & millions of you who have stood your ground by supporting me. I still have more to do.”
In a video that went viral on Twitter last year, Sandmann and other Covington High School students, who were in D.C. for the March for Life, appeared to be surrounding a Native American activist, Nathan Phillips, who was at the Lincoln Memorial for the Indigenous People’s March.
But a longer version of the video contradicted the notion that the Covington students instigated the incident or even that they were taunting Phillips. Instead, it showed another group known as the Hebrew Israelites using vulgar language against the high school students.
Sandmann, wearing a Make America Great Again hat, was at the center of the initial clip posted on social media, and it appeared that he was staring down Phillips as he played a drum. Twitter commentators quickly seized on the incident as an instance of harassment against Phillips, but longer video of the incident presented a different story over who was responsible for escalating the situation.
Kris Coratti, a spokesperson for the Washington Post, confirmed the settlement.
“We are pleased that we have been able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the remaining claims in this lawsuit,” she said.
A stipulation to dismiss the case with prejudice was filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.
The terms were not disclosed, but each side will bear its own costs.
Sandmann settled claims against CNN earlier this year. He has remaining claims against NBCUniversal, the New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, Gannett and Rolling Stone (whose parent company, Penske Media, also owns Deadline).
In his $250 million lawsuit, Sandmann claimed that the Post‘s reporting falsely accused him of instigating in the incident. His attorneys cited a series of articles, including the first one posted that they said “communicated the false and defamatory gist that Nicholas instigated a confrontation with Phillips and subsequently engaged in racist conduct.”
“In a span of three days in January of this year commencing on January 19, the Post engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann, an innocent secondary school child,” his attorneys wrote in their lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 19, 2019, several weeks after the incident.
In response, the Post‘s attorneys argued that the paper was reporting on observations made by Phillips.
“It was neither false nor defamatory, however, for the Post to report the comments of eyewitnesses, including the only participants who were speaking publicly about the matter on the day that videos of the event went viral on the internet,” the Post said a motion to dismiss filed last spring. The paper also noted that they continued to report on the story, which “evolved over time.”
“Indeed, the Post’s overall coverage—including the articles that the Complaint fails to mention—was not only accurate; it was ultimately favorable to him,” the Post said in their motion.
Last July, the judge in the case, William O. Bertelsman, granted the Post’s motion to dismiss Sandmann’s claims, in which his attorneys cited 33 instances of alleged defamation. On reconsideration, the judge later allowed claims on three of the statements.
Other media outlets, like CBS, contend that Sandmann’s attorneys have mischaracterized their reporting or that it was opinion that falls outside the scope of a defamation claim.
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