Teen at center of viral encounter sues CNN over reporting

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky teen at the heart of a January encounter with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington has sued CNN for $275 million, alleging the Cable News Network falsely labeled him a racist who instigated a threatening confrontation.

The attorneys for Nicholas Sandmann also filed suit last month against The Washington Post and are threatening numerous other news organizations, including The Associated Press.

In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Covington, Sandmann and his parents alleged that CNN had engaged in “falsely attacking, vilifying and bullying” Sandmann.

“Contrary to its ‘Facts First’ public relations ploy, CNN ignored the facts and put its anti-Trump agenda first in waging a 7-day media campaign for false, vicious attacks against Nicholas,” the lawsuit states.

A CNN spokesperson declined to comment.

Sandmann’s attorneys also are threatening legal action against The Associated Press and other news organizations. In a letter to the AP, dated Feb. 15, Atlanta-based attorney L. Lin Wood called on the news cooperative to “retract and correct” what his letter asserts are “defamatory statements.” Sandmann also provided his version of the events.

The Associated Press took great care to ensure its stories were measured and fair, reporting the facts of what transpired and adding details as they emerged, said spokeswoman Lauren Easton, adding that AP stands by its stories.

The actions of Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High School classmates have been intensely debated since video and photographs emerged of them wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and facing off with Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips.

Both Sandmann and Nathan Phillips say they were trying to defuse tensions that were rising among three groups on a day Washington hosted both the anti-abortion March for Life, attended by the Covington students, and the Indigenous Peoples March. But video of Sandmann and Phillips standing very close to each other, with Sandmann staring and at times smiling at Phillips as he sang and played a drum, gave some who watched it a different impression.