As Nicholas Sandmann’s lawsuit against The Washington Post was given anew a green light to proceed, President Trump championed the cause on Twitter Wednesday morning.
“A Federal Judge is allowing the Nick Sandman [sic] libel suit to move forward against the thoroughly disgusting Washington Post (which is no longer available at the White House!),” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He could now have a good chance of winning. Go Nick!”
A Federal Judge is allowing the Nick Sandman libel suit to move forward against the thoroughly disgusting Washington Post (which is no longer available at the White House!). He could now have a good chance of winning. Go Nick!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2019
As The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra reported on Tuesday, Federal Judge William Bertelsman reversed his previous decision and allowed Sandmann’s libel lawsuit to proceed against the Washington Post, barring a few caveats:
A federal judge in Kentucky reopened Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann’s $250 million defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post on Monday after having previously dismissed it over the summer.
“After reviewing an amended complaint, Judge William Bertelsman ordered Monday that the case could enter the discovery phase and hence a portion of the lawsuit against the newspaper could continue,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The lawsuit is allowed to proceed but has been limited in scope after the judge said that 30 out of the 33 statements that Sandmann’s lawyers argued were libelous were not actually libelous.
Sandmann was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year, when mainstream news outlets like the Post and CNN reported that he and several of his fellow students harassed a Native American man named Nathan Phillips while attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Phillips testified that “Make America Great Again” hat-wearing boys blocked his path and taunted him with racial slurs, which appeared somewhat credible at first when viral video revealed the boys standing around Phillips, cheering as he banged a drum in front of Sandmann’s face. However, the narrative took a dramatic turn when other videos showed that Phillips approached the boys, who were at the time being taunted with racial slurs by a fringe group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites.
Without fully investigating the matter, news outlets largely ran with Phillips’ account of what happened, smearing the boys as racists. Sandmann arguably bore the brunt of the smears due to his face being featured so prominently in the video. In fact, media figures, such as CNN contributor Reza Aslan, suggested he’d like to punch the 16-year-old in the face. “Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?” Aslan tweeted at the time.
In response, Sandmann’s family sued several news outlets for defamation, targeting the Post first for $250 million and accusing the outlet of “using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles … to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the president.” Originally, Judge Bertelsman (who was initially nominated to the bench by former President Jimmy Carter) dismissed the lawsuit, arguing that the Post did not commit defamation because it never mentioned Sandmann by name.
“The words used contain no reflection upon any particular individual,” the judge said in the July ruling, adding that the newspaper used “loose, figurative,” and “rhetorical hyperbole” — all of which are protected by the First Amendment.