- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2020

CNN agreed Tuesday to settle for an undisclosed amount in a $275 million lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann over the network’s coverage of his viral encounter with an elderly Native American activist.

A CNN spokesman confirmed to The Washington Times that a settlement had been reached, but offered no details. The amount was not disclosed in federal court in Covington, Kentucky, according to Fox19 in Cincinnati.

The teen’s family filed lawsuits against CNN, NBCUniversal and The Washington Post over reporting on the January 2019 incident in which Nicholas was filmed standing face-to-face with Omaha elder Nathan Phillips as he played a drum on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Sandmann attorney Todd V. McMurtry declined to comment on the settlement with CNN, but said attorneys agreed in a conference with the judge to “proceed with haste” in bringing in as many as 12 additional media outlets as defendants.

“The case against NBC and the Washington Post continues, and there are a number of additional defendants that we will be suing over the next 30 to 60 days,” said Mr. McMurtry, adding, “The defendants are those that republished Nathan Phillips’s false statements.”

Attorneys for the Sandmann family accused the network of “bullying” the Covington Catholic High School student, who wore a red Make America Great Again ball cap, to push a political agenda, which CNN has denied.

“Contrary to its ‘Facts First’ public relations ploy, CNN ignored the facts and put its anti-Trump agenda first in waging a 7-day media campaign of false, vicious attacks against Nicholas, a young boy who was guilty of little more than wearing a souvenir Make America Great Again cap,” said the 58-page lawsuit filed in March.

U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman initially dismissed the case against The Post, but reinstated it in October after narrowing the list of 33 allegedly defamatory statements to three.

The judge rejected motions filed by NBCUniversal and CNN to dismiss the lawsuits.

The Sandmanns, who are represented by attorneys L. Lin Wood and Mr. McMurtry, sued The Post for $250 million and NBCUniversal for $275 million.

CNN’s Oliver Darcy said in a Tuesday article that the settlement “will allow CNN to avoid a lengthy and potentially unpredictable trial.”

The Covington Catholic students were waiting for buses back to Kentucky after attending the March for Life when they were approached by Mr. Phillips, who had participated that day in the Indigenous Peoples March.

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins cheered the settlement decision, calling it a “wake up call for reporters who don’t respect student free speech.”

“Pro-life students are celebrating today following news that CNN is settling the case Nick filed after they violated every journalistic principle so that he and other pro-life students would look bad,” Ms. Hawkins said. “Peaceful pro-life speech should be respected and fairly reported.”

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

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