Judge Allows Covington Student’s Defamation Suit Against NBC to Proceed

November 24, 2019 Updated: November 25, 2019

A defamation lawsuit against NBCUniversal filed by Nicholas Sandmann, a teenager from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky accused by legacy media of picking a fight with an elderly activist in the nation’s capital in January, is being allowed to move forward after a series of legal setbacks.

Sandmann, who claims he was wrongly portrayed as the aggressor, may now proceed with two other defamation lawsuits against The Washington Post and CNN. He’s asking for $275 million in punitive and compensatory damages against NBC for generating a “false narrative” driven by its “anti-Trump agenda.”

Sandmann’s attorney, Lin Wood, celebrated the court ruling against NBC on Twitter on Nov. 21.

“As predicted, today Judge Bertelsman entered an order allowing the Nicholas Sandmann case against NBCUniversal to proceed to discovery just as he had earlier ruled with respect to WaPo & CNN cases. Huge, huge win!”

A series of videos posted online in January that showed the young Trump supporter’s awkward reaction to having his personal space invaded by a loud activist quickly went viral.

Sandmann was shown in the videos wearing a red pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” baseball cap at the Lincoln Memorial, after attending this year’s March for Life.

An elderly Native American man named Nathan Phillips was shown in the videos getting too close for comfort to Sandmann, who at times stared back at the activist and smiled. Sandmann was shown in the videos standing firm without responding, as Phillips loudly pounded a drum just inches from his face.

Phillips told reporters the high school kids were “beasts,” and, “It was racism. It was hatred. It was scary.”

Sandmann and his cohorts were angrily denounced by pundits on both the left and the right for supposedly showing disrespect to Phillips, even though Sandmann says he intended no such disrespect. Critics say the reporting by media outlets led to the widespread vilification of the high school students across the nation. Sandmann and his classmates even received death threats.

U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman ruled the case may proceed on limited grounds after he previously threw out parts of the $275 million lawsuit against NBC, while permitting discovery on allegations the media outlet defamed the young man by reporting he “blocked” Phillips in the Jan. 18 encounter.

“The court finds that the statements that plaintiff ‘blocked’ Phillips or did not allow him to retreat, if false, meet the test of being libelous per se under the definition quoted above,” Bertelsman wrote in his order.

While Bertelsman also initially tossed Sandmann’s $250 million lawsuit against The Washington Post, last month he permitted an amended complaint dealing with three of the 33 allegedly libelous statements to proceed. All three are related to the allegation that Sandmann blocked Phillips.

Sandmann attorney Todd V. McMurtry was quoted by The Washington Times saying the judge’s order “identifies a clear path to liability for the media defendants.”

“If we prove Nathan Phillips lied, it is defamation per se,” McMurtry said. “Then, all we have to do is prove that the media negligently republished those defamatory statements.”

NBC couldn’t be immediately reached by The Epoch Times for comment.

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