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CNN and Washington Post sued for defamation

A Kentucky student filed lawsuits against CNN and The Washington Post.

By Mickie Shaw, Multimedia Editor

A Covington High School student is suing CNN and The Washington Post for defamation, claiming the media outlets accused him of racist behavior and provoking a Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial.

Nicholas Sandmann is suing CNN for $275 million claiming the news channel made “false and defamatory accusations” in four cable news stories and in nine website stories. The complaint, filed March 12, claims CNN reported Sandmann was the “face” of an “unruly racist mob” and was targeted by CNN because he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap and to further their “anti-Trump agenda.”

“The CNN accusations are totally and unequivocally false and CNN would have known them to be untrue had it undertaken any reasonable efforts to verify their accuracy before publication of its false and defamatory accusations,” read the complaint.

CNN gave no comment when contacted by Reuters.

Sandmann is also suing the Post for $250 million, the same amount Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest man, bought the Post for in 2013.

The suit claims, “The Post led the mainstream media to assassinate Nicholas’ character and bully him.”

The complaint also accuses the Post of targeting Sandmann because he was a white Catholic wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap and to further “a biased agenda” against President Trump.

The Post’s Vice President for Communications Kristine Coratti Kelly said, “We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit and we plan to mount a vigorous defense.”

In an attempt to correct their initial reporting, the Post released a lengthy Editor’s Note on March 1, stating, “A Washington Post article first posted online on Jan. 19 reported on a Jan. 18 incident ... Subsequent reporting, a student’s statement and additional video allow for a more complete assessment of what occurred, either contradicting or failing to confirm accounts provided in that story.”

According to Nooki Berenji, an instructor of law at Valley College, in a defamation case of a private citizen the information only has to be false; in the case of a public citizen, intentional wrongdoing has to be proven. Sandmann’s lawyers will have to prove the teen’s reputation and character have been damaged. The court will have to decide if Sandmann is considered a private citizen. Lawsuits like these can often settle.

Los Angeles attorney Dennis Marinos said, “[Sandmann’s attorneys] will have to prove the Washington Post was negligent. They didn’t do the proper vetting on the story to show what really happened.”

An edited version of the video presents what appears to be a stand off between Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, in January. Sandmann displays a broad smile as the activist plays a drum and sings while standing in front of him. Some thought the smile was disrespectful or taunting and racist. The video went viral on social media causing widespread outrage and condemnation.

Sandmann’s lawyers promised more lawsuits to come.


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