Valerie Richardson, Washington Times, October 28, 2019
A federal judge in Kentucky has reopened the $250 million defamation case filed by a Covington Catholic student against The Washington Post after dismissing it in July, allowing the lawsuit to proceed but narrowing its focus.
U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman agreed to permit discovery on three of 33 allegedly libelous statements in The Post’s coverage of the Jan. 18 incident pertaining to teenager Nicholas Sandmann. The Post has insisted that its reporting was fair and accurate.
All three flagged statements from the newspaper’s coverage refer to Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips being blocked or impeded by Nicholas, a student at Covington Catholic High School, during their viral encounter at the Lincoln Memorial stairs.
“The Court will adhere to its previous rulings as they pertain to these statements except Statements 10, 11, and 33, to the extent that these three statements state that plaintiff ‘blocked’ Nathan Phillips and ‘would not allow him to retreat,’” Judge Bertelsman said in his Monday order.
Attorney Todd V. McMurtry, who represents the Sandmann family with attorney L. Lin Wood, called the judge’s order a “huge victory.”
The Sandmann attorneys have also filed separate $275 million defamation lawsuits against CNN and NBCUniversal for their coverage of the incident. Both media organizations have also denied defaming the Covington teen and filed motions to dismiss.
The three statements identified by the court were:
A quote in three articles from Mr. Phillips saying that Nicholas “just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat,” a statement attributed to Mr. Phillips saying that the teen “was blocking him from moving,” and a tweet using the quote from Mr. Phillips saying that Nicholas “just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”