The legal team representing former Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, now-20, will file an appeal after they had libel lawsuits against five news organizations thrown out in court this week.
The lawsuits centered around vicious smears that Sandmann faced in the media back in 2019 when a video clip showing him simply standing in front of a Native American man while smiling went viral online.
U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman on Tuesday dismissed Sandmann’s lawsuits against The New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, Gannett, and Rolling Stone magazine.
Sandmann attorney Todd McMurtry told the media that they will file an appeal against the ruling.
While five lawsuits were thrown out, Sandmann has received settlements from The Washington Post, CNN, and NBC News for undisclosed amounts.
“Obviously, the ruling yesterday was a disappointment for my family and I. I’m appealing the decision in the sixth circuit,” Sandmann said in a statement responding to the ruling this week. “Judge Bertelsmann revisited the statements that I ‘blocked Nathan Phillips’ and ‘would not allow him to retreat.’ His job was to rule on the legal issue of what those statements were.”
“If they were factual claims, I could proceed and a jury would then decide if they were defamatory. But if they were opinions, it is protected speech that I cannot sue for,” Sandmann continued. “The judge ruled that the media companies published opinion. The problem is: it isn’t.”
Sandmann illustrated his point by noting that stating “X did Y” is different than stating “I believe X is Y.”
“I should be able to proceed due to the factual claim the defending media companies made which was used in conjunction with negative connotations of racism and harassment that defamed me,” Sandmann continued. “I wrote an op-ed recently in which I mentioned defamation cases being a uphill battle. This is why. There is complete indisputable video evidence along with publications that [published] falsehoods.”
“Nevertheless, I have learned how to be patient and keep the will to move forward. I am going to continue on that path,” he concluded.