- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Washington Post has asked a federal court to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann, disputing his counsel’s allegation that the newspaper’s coverage of his face-off with a Native American man was tainted by “an anti-Trump bias.”

In a 45-page motion filed Tuesday, the Post denied that it defamed the Kentucky teen in its reporting on his Jan. 18 encounter with Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips. The 16-year-old wore a red Make America Great Again ball cap in the viral confrontation.

“The inflammatory rhetoric of the Complaint and the nonstop public promotion of the suit by Plaintiff’s counsel suggest one motive: to strike a blow against the Post’s allegedly ‘biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump,’” said the motion for dismissal.

“There is no fact alleged, however, to suggest that the Post’s coverage was motivated by an anti-Trump bias — and the prominent, front-page coverage given to the Plaintiff’s version of events and the investigative findings in his favor belie any such motive,” said the motion. “Politics has nothing to do with this case, and law warrants its dismissal.”

In February, attorneys for Nicholas and his parents sued the Post for $250 million — the amount paid by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos for the media outlet in 2013 — over its reporting on the incident at the Lincoln Memorial. CNN was sued a month later for $275 million over its coverage.

The crowd of Covington Catholic students was initially accused of harassing Mr. Phillips based on a short video clip posted on social media, but lengthier footage showed that Mr. Phillips approached the teens and entered their cheer circle after they were berated by a handful of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters.

Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood, who filed the lawsuits along with Kentucky counsel Todd V. McMurtry, tweeted Wednesday that the “Washington Post gets it wrong again.”

“Any contention that Nicholas Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit is politically motivated is errant nonsense,” said Mr. Wood.

In the filing, the Post argued that the complaint centered on “observations and perspectives of the principal Native American participant in the incident and other eyewitnesses.”

“It was neither false nor defamatory” to report those comments, said the motion, adding that Mr. Phillips “was entitled to offer his subjective point of view.”

The Post also argued that most of the statements cited in the lawsuit referred to the group of students, not Nicholas specifically.

“In short, the articles in question may not have been flattering of the Covington Catholic students, but they do not give rise to a defamation claim by Sandmann,” said the motion.

The Feb. 19 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Kentucky accused the Post of being driven by anti-Trump fervor in its reporting on the incident.

“The Post’s campaign to target Nicholas in furtherance of its political agenda was carried out by using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles which effectively provided a worldwide megaphone to Phillips and other anti-Trump individuals and entities to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the President,” the lawsuit alleged.

The Sandmann attorneys have indicated that they plan to sue other media outlets.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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