Smeared by the media, Nicholas Sandmann gets no help from the Supreme Court

Former Kentucky high school student Nicholas Sandmann won’t be getting any help from the nation’s highest court as he seeks justice over being wrongly smeared as a racist by the media.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of the young man who during a trip to Washington D.C. with his fellow Covington High School students in 2019 engaged in a confrontation with an elderly Native American activist that was distorted by the professional character assassins in the media to portray him as a racist.

In an orders list, the court allowed the ruling of a lower court that dismissed Sandmann’s massive libel lawsuit against several major media organizations to stand. Among those being sued by the wronged young man were ABC News, the New York Times, and Gannett, the USA Today’s parent company.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has denied my petition,” Sandmann posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

In the petition filed in January, Sandmann’s lawyers referred to their client as a victim of “cancel culture” and an “innocent high school student” at the time when his path was blocked by activist Nathan Phillips at the March for Life event in January 2019.

Video of the then 16-year-old who was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” ballcap when he was accosted by the drum-banging Indian, at the Lincoln Memorial went viral and was selectively edited to depict him as a leering bigot to falsely characterize all Trump supporters as white supremacists.

(Video: YouTube/The Washington Post)

“The consequences for Sandmann were immediate and catastrophic. Over the ensuing hours, as he slept on the bus back to Kentucky, and over the next day, Nicholas Sandmann changed from a quiet, anonymous teenager into a national social pariah, one whose embarrassed smile in response to Phillips’ aggression became a target for anger and hatred, the subject of media commentary and talk-show invective, his name and reputation forever tarnished,” the petition stated.

“Sandmann was denounced by his church diocese, denied re-admission to his high school, and attacked in the national media,” his attorneys wrote. “Round-the-clock police protection was assigned to his house; his visage was featured on nearly all major television outlets, with celebrity commentators stating that they would ‘like to punch him in the face,’ and worse.”

A federal judge in Kentucky dismissed the lawsuit in July 2022. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH later upheld the ruling, leaving Sandmann with the remaining option of seeking to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“The media defendants were covering a matter of great public interest, and they reported Phillips’s first-person view of what he experienced,” wrote U.S. Senior Judge William Bertelsman in dismissing the lawsuit.

CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC had previously reached settlements with Sandmann.

“In response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear the defamation case of Nick Sandmann, I can only express profound disappointment. This outcome denies Nick justice and misses an opportunity to set important precedents for protecting individual rights against defamation by mainstream media,” the young man’s attorney Todd McMurtry told Law & Crime.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to address the critical issues presented by our case illustrates the growing challenges individuals face in the public sphere. Such challenges include unchecked defamation, significantly threatening individuals’ reputational integrity and personal dignity. It touches upon the very essence of our democratic values and the right of every American to seek redress when those values are compromised,” McMurtry said.

Chris Donaldson


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