CNN Settles Multi-Million Dollar Defamation Lawsuit Filed by Covington Student Nicholas Sandmann

CNN has agreed to settle a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit with Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann earlier this month. A CNN spokesperson has confirmed that a settlement was reached but the news outlet has declined to offer further details.

In March of last year, Sandmann filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN seeking more than $275 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit alleged that the cable news networked engaged in a “vicious attack” against Sandmann in its coverage of him following his encounter with 64-year-old Native American Nathan Phillips in January of that year.

According to the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Kentucky, “CNN falsely asserted” that Sandmann and his classmates were in a “racis[t]” “mob mentality” and “looked like they were going to lynch” a nearby group of Black Hebrew Israelites “because they didn’t like the color of their skin” or “their religious views.” The suit goes on to allege that CNN further reported that Sandmann and his classmates “surrounded” Phillips and “harassed and taunted” him, creating “a really dangerous situation” during which Sandmann “blocked [Phillips’] escape” and caused Phillips to “fear for his safety and the safety of those with him.”

“In short, the false and defamatory gist of CNN’s collective reporting conveyed to its viewers and readers that [Sandmann] was the face of an unruly hate mob of hundreds of white racist high school students who physically assaulted, harassed, and taunted two different minority groups engaged in peaceful demonstrations, preaching, song, and prayer.”

After a video clip of the incident was posted to social media, Sandmann was vilified online over the seemingly racially motivated footage, which showed mostly white teenage boys staring down and yelling at the demonstrators. According to the complaint, “CNN rushed to take advantage of the viral social  media mob to further its anti-Trump agenda and increase the billion-dollar bottom lines of its conglomerate corporate owners by generating eyeballs, clicks, and resulting advertising revenue from its sensationalized broadcasts and online reporting.”

According to the complaint, CNN’s defamatory coverage not only inflicted “substantial reputational and emotional harm” on Sandmann but created “an extremely dangerous situation by knowingly triggering the outrage of its audience and unleashing that outrage on Nicholas.”

The lawsuit against CNN is just one of three libel suits the teen has filed against news outlets stemming from what the suits claim was the defendants’ unfair depiction of his encounter in Washington, DC. Altogether the suits seek more than $800 million in damages. We previously wrote about Sandmann’s lawsuit against The Washington Post here, including the dismissal of that suit here, and the court’s eventual reinstatement of that suit here.

Our DuPage county defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites criticism of businesses and other matters of public concern. You can view here a federal court decision where we prevailed in a libel per se claim asserting the innocent infringer defense. Here is an arbitration decision where we won a decision in favor our client after we presented evidence and cross-examined the used car dealer defendant at a hearing where we proved that our client’s 20 plus YouTube videos voicing his opinion that a used car dealer committed consumer fraud were true or substantially true and were protected speech under the First Amendment. We recently required a defendant who publicized an allegedly false lawsuit regarding our client to provide an apology and full retraction as part of a confidential financial settlement following our filing of a $16 million suit for libel per se in federal district court. You can read about that case here.

Lubin Austermuehle’s Cook County defamation and slander lawyers near Evanston and Schaumburg have more than three decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state defamation and First Amendment laws. Our Chicago business, commercial, class-action, and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Elmhurst and Deerfield near Northbrook and Highland Park, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest region. You can contact us online here or call us on our locally at 630-333-0333.

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