A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on Friday dismissed Nicholas Sandmann’s $250 million defamation complaint against the Washington Post, citing First Amendment protections.
The case stems from a conflict that arose at a rally in Washington, DC. Sandmann was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat when his school group was yelled at by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites. After nearly an hour of yelling, a third group—Native Americans attending the Indigenous Peoples March—approached the students while singing and dancing. Nathan Phillips led this group with his drum and ended up face-to-face with Sandmann, with neither individual engaging with or moving away from the other until Sandmann was told to board a bus.
The Washington Post published seven articles related to this event after video of the incident began to circulate online. Sandmann claimed these articles were defamatory.
The articles were not, however, found to meet defamation criteria. These criteria require that the “allegedly libelous statement be objectively false,” be about the plaintiff, and be defamatory. The Washington Post articles described the “teens” at the rally and reported on protected opinions gathered from different parties involved.
Additionally, the court found the social media scorn against Sandmann irrelevant to the case, as libel suits must remain within the four-corners of the printed articles.