Blog Post

Covington Catholic Teens Sue Politicians & Media Personalities

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Just days after a judge threw out a lawsuit filed by Nicholas Sandman, the teen whose reputation was compromised at the 2019 March for Life after he was falsely accused of bigotry and hatred against a Native American activist, the teen and seven other students at Covington Catholic High School have filed a defamation lawsuit against politicians and media personalities who refused to apologize after the teens were exonerated.

According to the Washington Times, personalities such as 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, comedienne Kathy Griffin, CNN host Ana Navarro, and New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, are among those named in the lawsuit which seeks up to $4.5 million in damages.

“Several of our Senators, most-famous celebrities, and widely read journalists, collectively used their large social media platforms, perceived higher credibility and public followings to lie and libel minors they never met, based on an event they never witnessed,” the lawsuit said.

“These defendants called for the kids to be named and shamed, doxxed and expelled, and invited public retaliation against these minors from a small town in Kentucky. The defendants circulated false statements about them to millions of people around the world. . . The defendants were each individually offered the opportunity to correct, delete, and/or apologize for their false statements, but each refused, continuing to circulate the false statements about these children to this very day on their social media platforms they personally control.”

Although none of the other seven Covington teens were mentioned by name in the videos or media coverage the way Sandmann was, all report having received hate mail and death threats in the wake of the controversy.

The Sandmann family has already sued three media outlets – the Washington Post, CNN, and NBCUniversal. The case against the Washington Post was dismissed last week by a judge who claimed the paper’s involvement in the misreporting of Sandmann didn’t rise to the level of defamation. Sandmann’s lawyers have already said they intend to appeal the ruling.

The new lawsuit will ask for “no more than $15,000 and no less than $50,000 per defendant for each of the eight plaintiffs,” the Post reports. “That would bring the total to $4.8 million if all 12 defendants were ordered to pay the maximum award to all eight students.”

As the lawsuit claims, “No individual plaintiff seeks damages from any defendant in excess of the cost of a four-year tuition at the University of Kentucky. Plaintiffs file this complaint for neither fame nor fortune; they bring this suit to protect future families from experiencing the nightmare the defendants caused these kids to experience.”

Other defendants in the case include Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico; Shaun King, activist and columnist; Adam Edelen, former Kentucky auditor of public records; Reza Aslan, professor and author; Matthew Dowd, ABC News political analyst; Kevin Kruse, professor and author; Clara Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of Mother Jones; Jodi Jacobsen, editor-in-chief of Rewire News.

According to the Times, all 12 plaintiffs were asked “repeatedly” to “retract, correct or delete their offending and defamatory statements, but each refused,” according to the complaint.

In an age of rampant uncivil discourse, the Sandmann lawsuits are of particular importance regardless of whether or not the students are successful. The mere filing of these suits holds public figures accountable for inflammatory rhetoric that put the lives of innocents in danger.  Whether it be through social media or the nightly news, the race-baiting and name-calling among the media and political class must stop, not only for the sake of justice for these unfairly maligned students, but for the cause of peace in America.

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