US

Covington Teen Plans Next Lawsuits; Associated Press, NBC, HBO Among Targets

By Zachary Stieber

The Associated Press, NBC, and HBO have been named as the likely next media outlets to be sued by the legal team representing Kentucky teenager Nick Sandmann.

“Our plan is to come out with an additional lawsuit every few weeks or months. We have to issue opportunities for these news organizations to provide retractions,” attorney Todd McMurtry said during an interview on “Todd Starnes Radio Show,” reported Fox News.

“But right now we’re looking very carefully at NBC, AP, HBO. And again, HBO is primarily because they carry Bill Maher’s disgusting comments about Nicholas Sandmann. So those probably are the next three defendants.”

Maher, who hosts a show on HBO, said during a Jan. 27 episode that Sandmann, 18, was a “little [expletive].”

Bill Maher, in a 2017 file photo, went on an expletive-ridden rant against a Kentucky teenager for which he has not apologized for. The teen’s lawyer said a lawsuit is likely forthcoming against Maher and HBO, which airs Maher’s show. (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Electric Entertainment)

“I don’t blame the kid, the smirk-face kid,” Maher said. “I blame lead poisoning and bad parenting. And, oh yeah, I blame the [expletive] kid, what a little [expletive] smirk face, like that’s not a [expletive] move at any age to stick your face in this elderly man.”

Maher then devolved into joking about the sex abuse scandal that has unfolded within the Catholic church in recent years, trying to link it to Sandmann and his schoolmates.

“You know, I don’t spend a lot of time, I must tell you, around Catholic school children, but I do not get what Catholic priests see in these kids,” he said.

Maher has not apologized for his statements.

Maher was among dozens of high-profile analysts, show hosts, activists, celebrities, and journalists who derided Sandmann and the other teenagers, and many have declined to issue retractions or apologies.

Earlier in the week, McMurty mentioned Kathy Griffin, a celebrity who called for Sandmann to be doxxed, or have his private information revealed publicly, among other targets.

McMurty said the goal of the suits is to alter the behavior of “mainstream media.”

”Clearly what we want to do is stop them from behaving in a way that discards all journalistic integrity,” he said. “Here they didn’t investigate. They took something off of Twitter and put it right out into the media.”

sandmann and phillips
Nick Sandmann from Covington Catholic High School stands in front of Native American activist Nathan Phillips while the latter bangs a drum in his face in Washington on Jan. 18, 2019. (Kaya Taitano via Reuters)

Background

Sandmann and schoolmates from Covington Catholic High School were smeared by a number of media outlets and personalities after an edited video clip showing a Native American activist banging a drum in Sandmann’s face went viral.

A slew of outlets, including AP and NBC, relied on the short clip and an account given only by the activist, Nathan Phillips.

But full video footage, which was available when the stories were published, but wasn’t acknowledged, showed that Phillips lied about a number of aspects of the incident, including his claim that the students surrounded him and blocked him from approaching the Lincoln Memorial. Instead, the video showed Phillips target the students and walk up to them before getting in the teen’s face.

While Phillips banged his drum, a member of his group told the students that they “stole our land” and “should go back to Europe.”

Phillips’s claim that the students chanted “Build the wall” was also proven false by the video, with no such chants being heard.

Additionally, Phillips lied about being a Vietnam veteran.

Nathan Phillips lied about being Vietnam vet
Nathan Phillips, center, with other protesters near the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on Feb. 22, 2017. (Teray Sylvester/Reuters)

Many media outlets declined to apologize for initial erroneous reporting, portraying the story as developing.

But Sandmann’s legal team is pursuing lawsuits against the outlets, noting that the teen was a minor and a private citizen when the stories came out.

In the first suit filed, lawyers Lin Wood and McMurty said the openly liberal Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, wrote slanted stories about Sandmann because he was white, Catholic, and wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

“The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump (‘the President’) by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President,” Wood said in a statement. “Sandmann is 16-years of age, 5’9” in height, and weighs 115 pounds. The school field trip to the Nation’s capital was the first out-of-state trip Nick had ever taken without being with his family. He did nothing to deserve being attacked, vilified & bullied. Nothing.”

The second suit was filed on March 12 against CNN, with the team saying the openly anti-Trump outlet failed to uphold and abide by “well-established journalistic standards and ethics” by conveying “false” and “heinous” accusations of “racist conduct.”

An investigation by a third-party hired by the Covington Diocese cleared the students of any wrongdoing.