Former Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann announced Friday he had settled out of court with the Washington Post, one of the eight national news outlets he sued for defamation in early 2019.
Sandmann’s original claim against the Post asked for $250 million as compensation for its coverage of an incident that occurred during his class’s trip to the 2019 March for Life in Washington.
He did not disclose the amount for which he had settled, but thanked his lawyers and retweeted a message of congratulations from alt-right One America News Network correspondent Jack Posobiec.
On 2/19/19, I filed $250M defamation lawsuit against Washington Post. Today, I turned 18 & WaPo settled my lawsuit. Thanks to @ToddMcMurtry & @LLinWood for their advocacy. Thanks to my family & millions of you who have stood your ground by supporting me. I still have more to do.
— Nicholas Sandmann (@N1ckSandmann) July 24, 2020
Sandmann’s suits against CNN, NBC Universal Media, The New York Times Company, CBS News, ABC News, Rolling Stone and the newspaper network Gannett — all over their coverage of the same incident — remain ongoing.
In January 2019, an image of Sandmann’s face became the most recognizable symbol of a nationally controversial interaction involving Covington Catholic students, Native American activists and members of a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites outside the Lincoln Memorial.
In the picture — a still clipped from a short video posted to Twitter — Sandmann, wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, smiles with his chin tilted forward at Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist playing a drum.
The first news stories about the encounter quoted Phillips and other Native American activists who had been attending the Indigenous Peoples March when they crossed paths with the Covington Catholic students, who were waiting for a bus after attending the March for Life on a school trip.
Some of the activists described the teens’ presence as threatening and their behavior — performing school spirit chants, performing “tomahawk chops” — as racist harassment. A video clip of Sandmann and Phillips quickly went viral on social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook; the still image circulated at the same lightning-fast pace and topped news stories.
Sandmann and other Covington Catholic students described the encounter differently and said they had not intentionally threatened or intimidated the activists.
A longer video clip, released days later, showed the students exchanging shouts with members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a religious group whose members believe they — not Jewish people — are the descendants of the ancient Israelites described in the Bible. The most extreme Black Hebrew Israelites are known for public appearances in which they shout provocative, homophobic and anti-Semitic messages at passersby.
That was what they did outside the Lincoln Memorial. Covington Catholic students said they began their own chants to drown them out.
The Native American marchers arrived at the scene of a peaceful but tense interaction in progress and said they worried about the risk of violence.
Sandmann and his lawyers, including high-profile libel attorney L. Lin Wood, have characterized the initial media coverage as biased against Sandmann for being white, religious and conservative.
Each of his remaining suits asks for tens of millions of dollars in damages.