In response to misleading reports about his presence at a demonstration in Washington, D.C. last year, Kentucky teen Nicholas Sandmann filed multiple defamation lawsuits against a handful of media outlets.
This week, a judge denied motions from several of those outlets seeking a dismissal of those complaints, as reported by the Post Millenial.
“A license to smear”
The former Covington Catholic High School student’s fight against the outlets accused of ruining his reputation is now cleared to continue against The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC News, and CBS News.
Sandmann, for his part, celebrated the ruling in a statement, describing it as “another important step towards achieving justice against a media that thinks it has a license to smear.”
Sandmann’s case dates back to January 2019, when the then-16-year-old was caught on camera in an encounter with Native American demonstrator Nathan Phillips.
While he was initially branded as a racist in some reports, more context later emerged framing Phillips as the initiator of the viral standoff.
All four outlets impacted by Thursday’s court ruling denied their reports were defamatory, though the judge found that Sandmann’s case is valid because of a perceived lack of basic research prior to publication. The lawsuits allege that Sandmann experienced “emotional distress” and life-altering damage to his reputation because of a failure of the press to exercise “reasonable journalistic care.”
“Then full war machine”
Specifically, Sandmann’s attorneys claim that outlets published false statements by Phillips that depicted the teen as a racist and intimidator.
As the Times reported at the time, “Nicholas and a mass of other young white boys surrounded, taunted, jeered and physically intimidated Phillips.”
The latest development comes after Sandmann reached settlements in his lawsuits against CNN and The Washington Post.
“My life changed forever in that one moment,” he said in August during a speech at the Republican National Convention, according to the New York Post. “The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without ever researching the full video of the incident; without ever investigating Mr. Phillips’s motives; or without ever asking me for my side of the story. And do you know why? Because the truth wasn’t important.”
Considering the legal victories he has already notched, however, it looks like Sandmann might have the final word.