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Federal judge dismisses former Cov Cath student's media lawsuit

nicholas sandmann
Survival Media Agency via AP

A federal judge in Covington Tuesday dismissed defamation lawsuits against five media organizations brought by former Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann following a 2019 incident in Washington D.C. that went viral.

Sandmann had sought tens of millions in damages from the The New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, Gannett and Rolling Stone magazine. He argued Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, defamed him in the media. Specifically, Sandmann argued Phillips defamed him by stating "Sandmann 'blocked' him and 'wouldn’t allow [him] to retreat.' "

U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky, William Bertelsman, ruled Phillips' statements were "objectively unverifiable."

A previous lawsuit against the Washington Post was also thrown out by the same judge in 2019.

Sandmann and his attorney told the Lexington Herald-Leader they'll appeal.

Video of the incident between Sandmann, who was 16 at time, and Phillips and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites in January 2019 drew national attention after it went viral. Sandmann was with a group of Cov Cath students who were in Washington, D.C. to attend the National March for Life. The video was originally characterized as the students having encircled Phillips in an attempt to intimidate him.

Later, more and longer videos would add context to the story that Phillips had approached the students who were already in the midst of performing school chants after engaging in a back-and-forth with the Black Hebrew Israelites.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.