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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Federal Judge Tosses Sandmann’s Libel Lawsuits; Appeal Likely

'The media defendants were covering a matter of great public interest, and they reported Phillips’s first-person view of what he experienced... '

(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) The MAGA-hat-wearing teen who was the subject of a national feeding frenzy during the 2019 “March for Life” rally and later delivered a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention was dealt a setback in his yearslong effort to hold Fake News accountable.

On Wednesday, Kentucky Judge William Bertelsman dropped Nick Sandmann’s lawsuits for libel against five mainstream media outlets, Fox News reported.

The 86-year-old judge dismissed Sandmann’s cases against the New York Times, CBS, ABC, Gannett Co. Inc, and Rolling Stone on the grounds their reporting seemed accurate at the time.

Bertelsman, first appointed by President Jimmy Carter, claimed that Sandmann had blocked Native American activist Nathan Phillips from full and uninhibited self-expression.

“The media defendants were covering a matter of great public interest, and they reported Phillips’s first-person view of what he experienced,” he wrote.

“This would put the reader on notice that Phillips was simply giving his perspective on the incident,” he continued. “Therefore, in the factual context of this case, Phillips’ ‘blocking’ statements are protected opinions. This holding moots all other motions before the Court.”

Todd McMurty, Sandmann’s attorney, said that he was “disappointed” by the ruling, and plans to file an appeal.

According to his client, they are “fully prepared to argue these cases in the 6th Circuit.”

After the ruling was handed down, Sandmann expressed his disappointment in a Twitter thread.

Sandmann—16 at the time—became a media target in 2019 after a video went viral in which he appeared to smirk after Phillips approached him and began banging a drum in his face.

Journalists at the New York Times, CBS, ABC, and others went out of their way to make Sandmann appear to be a racist, claiming he and fellow students at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School had harassed Phillips and targeted him out of hatred for his ethnic ancestry.

But later, additional footage emerged of Sandmann being the victim of violent racism as a group of Black Hebrew Israelites heckled him and made racist remarks about him and his classmates. It also showed Phillips initiating the confrontation with Sandmann.

Sandmann has previously reached settlements with NBC, CNN and the Washington Post for undisclosed amounts, although believed to be worth several million dollars.

The status of several other cases against The Guardian, HuffPost, NPR, Slate and The Hill remained unclear.

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