Wikimedia Commons | Ken Lund

CNN Is Getting Sued By Covington Student For $275 Million

One of the bigger news stories from early 2019 continues to develop, as the clash between Kentucky students and a tribal elder — and the ensuing media coverage of said event — has reached its next chapter. Here, a student has set his sights squarely on CNN.

Drama erupted at the Lincoln Memorial.

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The steps of the Lincoln Memorial are a popular gathering spot for demonstrations. On January 18, it was the location of numerous demonstrations — and it didn't take long for things to get confrontational.

Pro-lifers were marching.

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Several groups, including Native Americans attending the Indigenous Peoples March and several Black Hebrew Israelites were in attendance. A large group of pro-life March for Rally protesters made up a bulk of the crowd.

They were joined by high school students.


Students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky had taken buses to the event to support the March for Life rally. Many of the students wore red Make America Great Again hats.

Things became heated.

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A highly-publicized video shows that the crowd of students and several Native elders were in close proximity to each other. There was no threat of physical violence, but emotions were running high.

Some students appeared to mock the elders.

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Some videos appeared to show students mocking and harassing the tribal elders. The following events were immediately polarizing, with some supporting the students and others condemning them.

One student was prominent.

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Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann stood up in the face of tribal elder Nathan Phillips as Phillips beat his drum and chanted. Sandmann was wearing a MAGA hat and appeared to be smirking.

The encounter went on for an uncomfortably long time.

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It's polarizing because it's easy to see it both ways: maybe Sandmann is smirking in an antagonistic way, and maybe he's trying to defuse tensions in the face of an overzealous counterprotester.

Videos of the encounter went viral.

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Americans were divided. It seemed like the perfect crystallization of a divided nation, because opinions on the encounter mostly fell along political lines: Republicans supported Sandmann while Democrats condemned him.

Sandmann's suing CNN.

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It isn't the first outlet he's sued for their coverage of the event — he's already launched a suit against The Washington Post — but CNN's announcement of the lawsuit is a bit odd.

They announced they were getting sued on March 21, 2019.

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What's odd about this is that in the announcement, CNN waited more than a week to acknowledge things. The acknowledgement only came after existence of the suit was unveiled by a conservative news site.

They could be on the hook for big bucks.

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Sandmann's suit is for defamation, alleging the network was unfair and biased in their coverage. It's seeking $275 million in damages, though that number is almost certain to come down by the time this is settled.

It's being heard in a Kentucky Federal District Court.

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CNN defended themselves, saying they "reported on a newsworthy event and public discussion about it, taking care to report on additional facts as they developed and to share the perspectives of eyewitnesses and other participants and stakeholders as they came forward."

It'll take awhile to work itself out.

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The suit was only filed on March 12, so it'll take some time for the Kentucky judge to sort anything out. Along the way, we could get some interesting details from both sides, unless they're quick to settle.

What do you think?

Wikimedia Commons | Ken Lund

News networks have an obligation to keep people informed, but sometimes the rush to cover a story can lead to inaccurate reporting. In this case, it's still tough to know what happened. What are your thoughts?