The United States Law Week

Washington Post Seeks Dismissal of Covington Student’s Suit

April 10, 2019, 2:51 PM

The Washington Post wants Nicholas Sandmann’s defamation claims dismissed.

Sandmann is the Kentucky high school student who was recorded wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat while facing down a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial in January 2019.

The series of Post articles that provided ongoing coverage of the incident was accurate and didn’t defame Sandmann, the paper said in its April 9 motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Most of the statements that are allegedly defamatory spoke of a group of students in general terms, and those that referred to Sandmann were statements of the feelings of the Native American man with whom he had a stand off, the Post said.

The paper also reported Sandmann’s account when he came forward the next day and identified himself, the Post said.

The suit is motivated a desire to strike a blow against the Post for its allegedly “biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump,” the Post said, quoting the complaint.

But no alleged facts suggest that the Post’s coverage was motivated by an anti-Trump bias, the paper said.

In fact, the Post said, it devoted “prominent, front-page coverage” to Sandmann’s version of events and the investigative findings in his favor.

The suit seeks $250 million in damages—a number chosen because it is the price Jeff Bezos paid for the Post, according to the complaint.

Sandmann went to the National Mall Jan. 18 with his classmates from the Covington Catholic High School to take part in the annual March for Life.

While waiting for their buses to bring them back to Kentucky, the students were taunted by a group that calls itself the Hebrew Israelites. That drew the attention of a group of Native American activists who sought to defuse the situation.

A video of Sandmann staring at the elder, Nathan Phillips, who had waded into the crowd, went viral on social media within a matter of hours.

Hemmer DeFrank Wessels PLLC represents the Sandmann family.

Stites & Harbison PLLC and Williams & Connolly LLP represent The Post.

The case is Sandmann v. WP Company LLC, E.D. Ky., No. 19-cv-00019, 4/9/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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