Teen in Lincoln Memorial protest sues Washington Post for $250 million

By Keith Coffman
FILE PHOTO: An anti-abortion sign hangs on a fence in front of Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, U.S., January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Madalyn McGarvey/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

(Reuters) - A high school student from Covington, Kentucky, at the center of a videotaped incident at the Lincoln Memorial involving a Native American activist sued the Washington Post for defamation on Tuesday, claiming the newspaper "vilified" him because he is white.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, 16, seeks $250 million in damages - saying that was the amount Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and the world's richest person, paid for the Post in 2013.

"The Post wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red 'Make America Great Again' souvenir cap on a school field trip to the Jan. 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.," the lawsuit claims.

Sandmann "was unexpectedly and suddenly confronted by Nathan Phillips ... a known Native American activist, who beat a drum and sang loudly within inches of his face," the suit said.

Representatives for the Washington Post did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

In a photo that went viral from the incident Sandmann, wearing a red baseball cap emblazoned with U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, is seen standing face to face with Phillips, staring at him with a smile while Phillips sings and plays his drum.

The videotaped incident sparked outrage on social media.

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

The students, who were in Washington to attend the March for Life anti-abortion rally, were met at the Lincoln Memorial by offensive statements from members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, the report said.

The investigation also determined that the students did not direct any racist or offensive comments toward Phillips, the Native American activist, who waded into their group, although several performed a “tomahawk chop” to the beat of his drum.

Phillips claimed in a separate video that he heard the students chanting “build that wall,” during the encounter, a reference to Trump's pledge to build a barrier along the U.S. border with Mexico.

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


(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Bill Tarrant and Bill Berkrot)