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Lawyers for Nick Sandmann Seek Retractions from Media Outlets, Celebrities Amid Allegations of Cyberbullying and Defamation

— February 14, 2019

Covington Catholic High School junior, Nick Sandmann and his legal team are planning to send letters to more than 50 entities and individuals demanding retractions for their disparaging reactions following a January 18 incident involving a group of students and Native American activist Nathan Phillips.

By now, most of you may have heard about an incident following the March for Life involving a group of Covington Catholic High School boys, specifically Nick Sandmann, and Native American activist Nathan Phillips. How could you not? Every major news station, Conservative and Liberal alike, were talking about it, chiming in their two cents on who was in the wrong during the confrontation. As is common in a society demanding one sensational news story after another, seemingly 24-hours a day, some jumped the gun while giving their take on what they thought happened and were quick to label the group of high school students as the aggressors and Phillips and his group as the victims. Not long after, the boys were being attacked left and right

Fortunately for the students, however, more video footage soon emerged that painted a different story and showed that the roles may have been reversed, with the students being the victims of harassment. But the damage had already been done. The reputations of the students and their close friends and family had been dragged through the mud. Many prominent figures even took to social media platforms such as Twitter and verbally attacked, insulted, and made untrue statements about the students.

image of a legal gavel and books
Legal gavel and books; image courtesy of
succo via Pixabay,

What happened, though? Well, in the short clip that first made the rounds throughout various media outlets, Sandmann and his fellow classmates from Covington Catholic High School, an all-boys school based in Kentucky were standing around waiting for their bus after the March for Life event. Many in the group were wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) hats. In the very short clip, that clearly only showed a tiny part of what actually happened, Sandmann and his group were “approached by Phillips, who was beating a drum as he inserted himself into the group.”

Sandmann and many of his fellow classmates reacted to the sudden change of events by standing and watching the display before them. Sounds innocent enough, right? Not. Sandmann wasn’t merely standing and watching Phillips, but he was ‘smiling,’ or ‘smirking,’ depending who you ask. Many were quick to report the Covington junior’s actions as disrespectful and even racist and the personal attacks began pouring in.

In the more complete video footage that emerged later, it’s easy to see that Sandmann and his classmates were the ones being “harassed with racist and homophobic slurs by a group of adult men who belong to the Black Hebrew Israelites.”

In the face of the intimidation and harassment, the Covington students began chanting school cheers while they continued waiting for their bus. Their chanting drew the attention of Phillips and he took it upon himself to inject himself between the two groups, claiming in later reports and interviews that the students were the instigators.

Even after the longer video emerged showing the students were the actual victims, the “public vilification and disavowal of Sandmann largely went unretracted.” It’s this that prompted threats of legal action against more than 50 entities and individuals over allegations of defamation, libel, and even cyberbullying, which is a growing problem.

According to Sandmann’s lawyers, Todd McMurtry and L. Lin Wood, the main accusations highlighted in the case include a seemingly endless list of false accusations, false portrayals, and cyberbullying. So far McMurtry and Wood intend to send “more than 50 letters to politicians, celebrities, and media outlets as a warning of potential civil lawsuits for their false and disparaging reactions to the viral video clip of an incident between Sandmann and Phillips at the March for Life demonstration on Jan. 18.

In a statement, Sandmann’s attorney said:

“A mob comprised of activists, church and school officials, members of the mainstream print and broadcast media, and individuals on social media, including elected public officials and celebrities, rushed to condemn and vilify this young man.”

The letters that Sandmann’s attorneys sent out “requests organizations and individuals to preserve documents related to the Covington Catholic incident that took place at the March for Life, such as drafts of stories, emails between colleagues discussing the incident, and, for celebrities and individuals, any tweets or statements sent to the public.” They added:

“We fully expect that a multitude of civil lawsuits will be filed and aggressively pursued. We recognize that justice for Nick will not be achieved quickly, but we are dedicated to achieving it for this young man regardless of time or expense…Nick and his family have experienced one of the worst sides of our present society. As their lawyers, we intend to exercise our best efforts as advocates to show Nick and his family another side of our society—that we are a society that survives and flourishes from the fact that it is based on the rule of law. A system of justice that demands that truth prevails and the wrongdoers be held accountable for the harm they have inflicted on Nick and his family.”

The letters will or have already been sent to the following entities and individuals:

  • The Washington Post
  • The New York Times
  • Cable News Network Inc. (CNN)
  • The Guardian
  • National Public Radio
  • TMZ
  • Atlantic Media Inc.
  • Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.
  • Diocese of Covington
  • Diocese of Lexington
  • Archdiocese of Louisville
  • Archdiocese of Baltimore
  • Ana Cabrera
  • Sara Sidner
  • Erin Burnett
  • S.E. Cupp
  • Eliott C. McLaughlin
  • Amanda Watts
  • Emanuella Grinberg
  • Michelle Boorstein
  • Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
  • Antonio Olivo
  • Joe Heim
  • Michael E. Miller
  • Eli Rosenberg
  • Isaac Stanley-Becker
  • Kristine Phillips
  • Sarah Mervosh
  • Emily S. Rueb
  • Maggie Haberman
  • David Brooks
  • Shannon Doyne
  • Kurt Eichenwald
  • Andrea Mitchell
  • Savannah Guthrie
  • Joy Reid
  • Chuck Todd
  • Noah Berlatsky
  • Elisha Fieldstadt
  • Eun Kyung Kim
  • HBO
  • Bill Maher
  • Warner Media
  • Conde Nast
  • GQ
  • The Hill
  • The Atlantic
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Kathy Griffin
  • Alyssa Milano
  • Jim Carrey


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