COVINGTON, Ky. — Attorneys for Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann announced they filed a $250-million lawsuit against The Washington Post after the newspaper reported that Sandmann harassed a Native-American man following the March for Life.
The suit alleges that 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.” They are seeking “compensatory and punitive damages.”
“This is only the beginning,” said the attorneys in a statement. Sandmann is being represented by attorneys Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry from the law firm Hemmer DeFrank Wessels.
The attorneys said they are seeking $250 million because that was the amount Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid when his company, Nash Holdings, bought the Post back in 2013.
A short video published to Twitter in January appeared to show Sandmann, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, standing in close proximity to Native-American activist Nathan Phillips and seemingly smirking while Phillips played a ceremonial drum.
Phillips was in Washington for the Indigenous Peoples’ March, and the incident occurred near the Lincoln Memorial. Phillips told the media that the students had swarmed him and had repeatedly chanted, “Build the wall” or “Build that wall.”
The video quickly went viral, and many people called for the suspension or expulsion of Sandmann and his classmates as a punishment for their seemingly disrespectful behavior.
Sandmann’s diocese, as well as his high school, initially published statements condemning the behavior in the video.
As the weekend progressed, however, additional video was discovered that showed a far more nuanced context to the encounter between Phillips and Sandmann.
The new footage showed that Sandmann and his classmates had been harassed by members of the Black Hebrew Israelites and began a counterchant of their school chants in an effort to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites. The students denied chanting, “Build the wall,” and that chant could not be heard on various videos of the incident.
Additionally, video showed that Phillips had wandered into the crowd of Covington Catholic High School students — not the other way around — and began beating a drum in Sandmann’s face.
In a statement released the day after the video went viral, Sandmann said that he had smiled in an effort to diffuse the tension of the situation and show that he was not a violent person.
The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School both withdrew their statements condemning the students. Bishop Roger Foys of Covington spoke to Covington Catholic students and apologized for his premature response to the incident.
A third-party investigation into the Covington Catholic students came to the conclusion that they had not instigated the encounter and that there was no evidence of them making any offensive or racist statements.