Sandmann filed a lawsuit seeking $275 million from CNN for its coverage of his confrontation with Native American activist Nathan Phillips. CNN described Sandmann as the instigator, accusing him of racism simply because he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in support of President Donald Trump..
Sandmann, who was attending the annual March for Life rally with his classmates from Kentucky, said he had purchased the hat as a souvenir.
The outlet’s reporters “without any reasonable investigation … took something straight off Twitter that had been in essence manipulated so that it told one story and they reported it as the truth,” Sandmann’s lawsuit states.
CNN filed a motion in May to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing Sandmann’s accusations were subjective and thus couldn’t be proven false—a necessary condition under defamation laws.
It is not defamatory to say Sandmann and the other Covington students “expressed support for the President or that he echoed a signature slogan of a major political party,” CNN’s motion read.
It’s not clear how much CNN has settled for, but Sandmann also has pending lawsuits against NBC Universal and The Washington Post. Sandmann’s lawyers are also considering lawsuits against The Associated Press, HBO and specific individuals, such as former comedian Kathy Griffin, who said Sandmann should be doxxed.
Sandmann’s lawyers said CNN “elevated false, heinous accusations of racist conduct” against Sandmann and disregarded “well-established journalistic standards and ethics” in its reporting.
Because of the false accusations, they said, Sandmann’s “character has now been determined by the lies” CNN floated.
If someone hadn't taped incident on cell phone, edited video of KY kids would have forever ruined these innocent boys’ lives. Proving again that any random stranger on the street with a cell phone is a better journalist than the people working at CNN. https://t.co/nsJEM6KRRt— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) January 8, 2020
After an independent report exonerated the Covington students of any wrongdoing, Roger Foys, the bishop of Covington Catholic high school, called it a vindication.
“Our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening,” he said in a statement. “Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory.”