A Covington Catholic High School student can move forward with his defamation suit against the Washington Post, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled on Monday.
U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman of Kentucky had ruled in July that the student, Nicholas Sandmann, could not sue the Post for defamation. Bertelsman partially reversed that decision on Monday, ruling that of 33 allegedly defamatory statements in the Post’s coverage of Sandmann, three of those statements could be challenged in court.
“The Sandmann family and our legal team are grateful that Judge Bertelsman has allowed the case to proceed,” said Sandmann family attorney Todd McMurtry in an email to the Washington Times. “The Court’s ruling preserves the heart of the Nicholas Sandmann’s claims. We can consider this a huge victory and look forward to initiating discovery against the Washington Post.”
On January 18 of this year, Sandmann and classmates were in Washington, D.C. to participate in the March for Life, an annual pro-life demonstration. A viral video of Sandmann and his classmates appeared to show a confrontation between the students and a Native American man, Nathan Phillips.
Sandmann and several other students were wearing MAGA hats, and the Post asserted in its coverage of the incident that the students had blocked Phillips on his way to the Lincoln Memorial. Phillips told the Post that the students had surrounded him.
The three defamatory statements approved by Bertelsman for further investigation assert that Sandmann blocked Phillips’s path.
The students were pilloried as racist on social media when the video went viral. However, longer videos of the incident showed that Phillips had in fact approached the students and started to drum loudly when he came close to Sandmann. The students were also chanting during the incident with permission of their instructor, to drown out the shouts of a group of black nationalists nearby who were yelling insults such as “fa**ot” and “cracker” at the group.
Covington Catholic High School cancelled classes for several days after the incident due to online harassment of its students.