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Motions to dismiss denied in Sandmann suits against media companies

CovCath graduate Nick Sandmann speaks at RNC
CovCath graduate Nick Sandmann speaks at RNC
Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 6:14 PM CDT
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KENTON COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - Four media companies' dismissal motions in defamation suits brought by Nick Sandmann were denied Thursday in U.S. District Court in Covington.

Sandmann sued a total of seven media outlets, not all at once, after videos surfaced of an incident in January 2019 that showed the Covington Catholic student, then 16, and his classmates with others outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The initial video showed Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, an indigenous man participating in the Indigenous Peoples March. Sandmann and his classmates were in D.C. for the March For Life.

Other videos later surfaced showing different angles of the encounter.

The dismissal motions denied Thursday were filed in suits against The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC and CBS.

The rulings reference stories published by the companies quoting Phillips or citing a quote of his that Sandmann “blocked” or “stopped [Phillips’s] exit.”

Sandmann’s complaints argue Phillips’s statements were false and defamatory, meaning the companies acted negligently, recklessly and with actual malice in publishing them. That is, the companies could have determined the statements were false using the other videos and by relying on “reasonable journalistic care,” the complaints argue, and did not.

The statements also impute racist conduct to Sandmann, according to the complaints.

As well as defamation, the suits allege emotional distress.

The dismissal motions claimed Sandmann had failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, arguing the stories didn’t amount to defamation. The district court judge rejected those arguments outright.

Sandmann agreed to settlements with CNN in January and with the Washington Post in July.

He initially sued NBC Universal as well. In March, he brought additional suits against The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC and CBS as well as Gannett, which owns the USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

More | Nick Sandmann speaks at RNC on cancel culture, the ‘outraged mob’ and his smile in that photo

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