MAGA hat student sues Washington Post for $250m over coverage of confrontation with Native American man

Tom Barnes

A student involved in a viral confrontation with a Native American man is suing the Washington Post for $250m (£191m) over its coverage of the incident.

The defamation lawsuit, filed by Covington Catholic High School pupil Nick Sandmann, claims the newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied” him due to its “biased agenda” against Donald Trump.

The 16-year-old was wearing one of the president’s signature Make America Great Again hats when he attended an anti-abortion rally in Washington in January along with classmates from his Kentucky school.

The group of teenagers had become involved in a filmed confrontation with Nathan Phillips, an elderly Native American activist.

A viral photo from the incident, showing Mr Sandmann standing face-to-face with Mr Phillips and smirking as the protester sings and plays his drum, sparked outrage on social media.

Mr Phillips would later state in interviews he felt the students had been mocking him during the standoff.

However, a longer video of the incident emerged showing the teenagers had also been subject to racist abuse from another group of protesters identifying as Black Hebrew Israelites.

In the lawsuit filed in the US district court in Kentucky, lawyers claimed The Post had orchestrated a “campaign” to target Mr Sandmann “in furtherance of its political agenda”, because he was “white and Catholic”.

The teenager’s Atlanta-based lawyer, Lin Wood, added in a statement that additional similar lawsuits would be filed in the weeks ahead.

Washington Post spokesperson Kristine Coratti Kelly said: “We are reviewing a copy of the lawsuit, and we plan to mount a vigorous defence.”

A private investigation firm retained by Covington Diocese in Park Hills, Kentucky, found in a report released last week no evidence the teenagers provoked a confrontation.

The investigation also determined the students did not direct any racist or offensive comments towards Mr Phillips, although several performed a “tomahawk chop” to the beat of his drum.

The activist claimed in a separate video that he heard the students chanting “build that wall” during the encounter, a reference to Mr Trump’s pledge to build a barrier along the US border with Mexico.

The investigators said they found no evidence of such a chant and Mr Phillips did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him.

Additional reporting by Reuters