COVINGTON, Ky. (WCMH) — Lawyers for the family of Nicholas Sandmann are suing the Washington Post, claiming the teen was ‘wrongfully targeted and bullied’ by the paper.
Sandmann, 16, is the Covington Catholic High School junior at the center of a controversy that started after his face was depicted across social media, along with Native American protester Nathan Phillips, WLWT reported.
In a statement released on their website, attorneys L. Lin Wood and Todd V. McMurty said the lawsuit seeks $250 million in both compensatory and punitive damages.
“Lin and Todd will continue to bring wrongdoers before the court to seek damages in compensation for the harm so many have done to the Sandmann family. This is only the beginning,” the statement said.
The lawsuit claims the Post wrongfully targeted Sandmann ‘because he was “the white, Catholic student wearing a red “Make America Great Again” souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C. when he was unexpectedly and suddenly confronted by Nathan Phillips (“Phillips”), a known Native American activist, who beat a drum and sang loudly within inches of his face.”
Lawyers claim the Post engaged in ‘a modern-day form of McCarthyism’ by competing to claim leadership of a ‘mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, villified and threatened Nicholas Sandmann.’
In a statement to WLWT, the Washington Post responded to the lawsuit.
“We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit and we plan to mount a vigorous defense,” Kristine Coratti Kelly, vice president of communications, said.
Viral videos showed students from Covington Catholic High School involved in an incident with a Native American elder during a trip to the March for Life in Washington.
The students were widely criticized after the video appeared to show them mocking a Native American activist. Subsequent videos showed a more complicated three-way confrontation involving a black religious sect as well.
Covington Bishop Roger Foys initially condemned the students’ behavior. Days later, Foys apologized for “making a statement prematurely.”
An independent, third-party investigation — commissioned by the Diocese of Covington — found the students made no offensive or racist statements toward Phillips or anyone who was with him that day.
The four-page report on the investigation said a group of investigators from a firm called Greater Cincinnati Investigation interviewed 43 students and more than a dozen chaperones who were on the trip to Washington. Investigators reviewed social media videos, tried to contact Phillips and traveled to Michigan to attempt to speak to him, but he was not interviewed.
The videos show Phillips surrounded by students. Many interviewed students told investigators that they felt Phillips was coming into their group to join their own cheers, which were meant to drown out insults from the street preachers, who referred to themselves as the Black Hebrew Israelites. Many students reported that they were confused but did not feel threatened by Phillips, the report said.
“We found no evidence of racist statements to Mr. Phillips or members of his group,” the report said. “Some students performed a ‘tomahawk chop’ to the beat of Mr. Phillips’ drumming and some joined in Mr. Phillips’ chant.”
The investigators also reviewed related videos, including one made the same day in which a young person says, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it.” The investigators say they concluded that person was not a Covington Catholic student.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.