Atlanta libel lawyer Lin Wood has filed a second defamation lawsuit on behalf of a Kentucky teenager who was subjected to criticism and ridicule after his visage went viral on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Wood sued CNN for $275 million, claiming the Atlanta-based cable network broadcast at least four allegedly defamatory segments and published nine online articles on 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann’s face-to-face encounter with a Native American activist on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The suit claims the broadcasts impugning Sandmann were done with “actual malice.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, is the second defamation suit Wood has brought against a major media outlet on behalf of Sandmann. In February, Wood sued The Washington Post for $250 million over its reporting on the incident.
Sandmann and classmates from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky were in Washington for the annual March for Life. The teen, surrounded by his classmates, was wearing a Make America Great Again hat at the time his picture was snapped and posted on Twitter.
Both lawsuits attack CNN and The Post for an allegedly “anti-Trump agenda” that spurred negative coverage of Sandmann’s encounter with Native American activist Nathan Phillips. The CNN lawsuit claims the network has a “well-known and easily documented biased agenda against President Trump and established history of impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the president.”
Those claims echo similar ones in the Post suit. That complaint claimed the Post “recklessly rushed to publish” Phillips’ account “in order to advance its own agenda against President [Donald] Trump.”
When Trump tweeted news of Sandmann’s suit against the Post, Wood retweeted the president, adding his own commentary. “Nick Sandmann’s lawsuit against Washington Post is not political. But the bias of Post against @realDonaldTrump is a provable fact that is relevant to the litigation. We appreciate the President’s support.”
On March 1, the Post published an editor’s note that “subsequent reporting, a student’s statement and additional video” gave “a more complete assessment” of the encounter, “either contradicting or failing to confirm accounts provided in that story”—in part based on an interview with Phillips, who had accused the teens of taunting other protesters gathered on the mall at the same time. The Post’s subsequent reporting included three additional stories and a correction, the editor’s note said.
In the new suit filed Tuesday, Wood claimed CNN’s “collective reporting conveyed to its viewers and readers that Nicholas was the face of an unruly hate mob of hundreds of white racist high school students who physically assaulted, harassed, and taunted two different minority groups engaged in peaceful demonstrations, preaching, song, and prayer.”
Wood called those characterizations “unequivocally false” and contended “CNN would have known them to be untrue had it undertaken any reasonable efforts to verify their accuracy before publication of its false and defamatory accusations.”
“In fact, it was Nicholas and his CovCath classmates who were bullied, attacked, and confronted with racist and homophobic slurs and threats of violence” by a radical fringe group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites who were also on the mall that day “before being unexpectedly and unexplainedly confronted by Phillip, an activist, who proceeded to target Nicholas while chanting and beating a drum inches from his face,” the suit said.
What Wood contends were CNN’s mischaracterizations that allegedly defamed Sandmann stemmed, in part, from recorded interviews with Phillips, some of which were contradicted later by Sandmann and by more extensive videos that surfaced of the encounter and events surrounding it.
David Vigilante, senior vice president of legal for CNN and associate general counsel for Turner Broadcasting System referred request for comment to a CNN spokeswoman who declined comment.