Nicholas Sandmann, the viral MAGA teen, wants $250 million for defamation
Nicholas Sandmann, the 16-year-old Covington Catholic School student who went viral in a video showing him in an apparent altercation with a Native American elder, has filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post. He’s reportedly seeking $250 million in damages, alleging that the Post set out to harm him because he is white. Yes, really.
The lawsuit claims Sandmann faced threats, bullying and damage to his reputation after the video went viral last month. It reads, “[The Post] intended to harm Nicholas because he was a white, Catholic boy wearing a MAGA hat, and consciously ignored the threats of harm that it knew would inevitably ensue, in favor of its political agenda.”
Coverage of the video as it was going viral accused Sandmann and his classmates of using racial slurs and instigating the confrontation with a group of Native American elders at the Jan. 18 Indigenous Peoples March.
Video footage that was released later showed the confrontation actually began with a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who were arguing with the Native American men and shouting insults and slurs at them. Still, that certainly doesn’t erase or excuse the viral footage of Sandmann standing in front of Nathan Phillips with a threatening, mocking smirk on his face.
The lawsuit was filed by Sandmann and his parents in federal court on Thursday, and the language in the complaint very much echoes some favorite talking points of a certain president the family clearly supports. Namely, that the big bad mass media is out to get good, upstanding white people like the Sandmanns.
“The Post wanted to lead the charge against this child because he was a pawn in its political war against its political adversary — a war so disconnected and beyond the comprehension of Nicholas that it might as well have been science fiction,” the lawsuit reads.
“The Post must be dealt with the same way every bully is dealt with, and that holds the bully fully accountable for its wrongdoing in a manner which effectively deters the bully from again bullying other children.”
Trump himself weighed in on the lawsuit Wednesday morning.
“The Washington Post ignored basic journalistic standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump.” Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2019
The Washington Post has yet to speak publicly about the suit, but a spokesperson for the organization told Buzzfeed News that they’re reviewing the complaint and they plan to “mount a vigorous defense.” In defamation suits, it’s the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove that the paper knowingly published false information with the intent of harming someone’s reputation. That’s a really difficult thing to prove, which is why libel lawsuits aren’t that common in the U.S.
The $250 million that Sandmann and his family are seeking is how much the entire Washington Post organization was sold for in 2013. Precedence shows it’s unlikely this lawsuit will get too far, but then, these are strange and confusing times we live in, and anything is possible.