Lawsuit Against Kathy Griffin By Covington Catholic Students Dismissed

Comedian Kathy Griffin
Comedian Kathy Griffin
Comedian Kathy Griffin

A lawsuit filed against comedian Kathy Griffin by a group of students from Covington Catholic in Kentucky has been dismissed (again) by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

I’m sure you remember the sad tale of the Covington students who were involved in a standoff with a group of Native Americans in Washington D.C. on January 18, 2019.

Video footage of student Nick Sandmann, wearing a red MAGA hat standing face to face with Native American elder Nathan Phillips, went viral as the young student was viewed by many as being disrespectful to the Native American elder.

Sandmann later said he was trying to “defuse” the situation by standing still and “remaining calm.”

In the aftermath, Sandmann and his family sought to cash in on what they believed was his victimhood in the situation calling out media outlets for defaming and vilifying him.

Sandmann sued and eventually settled with CNN and the Washington Post.

The group of students in this case alleged harm by Griffin when she tweeted, “Names please, and stories from people who can identify them and vouch for their identity. Thank you.”

“Maybe you should let this fine Catholic school know how you feel about their students (sic) behavior toward the Vietnam veteran, Native American #NathanPhillips,” she said in a follow-up tweet.

But the Cincinnati Enquirer reports the 6th U.S. Circuit Court ruled on Tuesday that Covington Catholic students cannot bring harassment claims against Griffin.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman had granted a request from Griffin to dismiss the case but the students appealed that decision to the 6th Circuit.

Bertelsman also dismissed the students’ defamation and harassment lawsuits against CNN, the Washington Post and NBC.

A three-judge panel at the 6th Circuit upheld Bertelsman’s ruling saying the ‘Kentucky longarm statute’ being cited in the cases had no jurisdiction regarding Griffin since she hadn’t “committed any act ‘in [the] Commonwealth’ of Kentucky.”

Circuit Judge Julia Gibbons wrote in the decision, “To satisfy that provision of the longarm statute, the ’cause of action must arise from defendant’s activities’ in Kentucky.”

Additionally, the panel found, “there is no evidence that the defendants posted the tweets hoping to reach Kentucky specifically as opposed to their Twitter followers generally.”

And….done.

(h/t to TRR reader Rusty)

CNN Agrees To Settlement With Smirking High School Student

L-R Nick Sandmann, Nathan Phillips (screen capture)

CNN has reportedly agreed to settle a lawsuit by MAGA hat-wearing high school student Nick Sandmann, who became famous in January 2019 for staring down Native American Nathan Phillips at a Washington, D.C. event.

The amount of the settlement was not made public during a hearing at the federal courthouse in Covington, Kentucky.

Sandmann’s lawyer says the damages were sought due to “emotional distress Nicholas and his family suffered.” He also said the family had to move from their home temporarily and that Nicholas was not permitted to attend school directly after the trip to Washington.

The initial lawsuit sought $800 million from CNN, the Washington Post and NBC Universal. No trial dates have been set for the NBC Universal and Washington Post portions of the lawsuit.

Sandmann reportedly plans to sue Phillips as well.

At the time of the incident, people became polarized over what had happened and what, exactly, they saw.

To this day, having seen the full video footage, I’m still clear that the boy in the photo above is smirking at an elder.

And now, he will be rich for doing so.

#MAGA

‘Smirking’ Teen’s $250 Million Lawsuit Against Washington Post Dismissed

L-R Nick Sandmann, Nathan Phillips

You may recall the sad tale of the ‘smirking teen’ who became the center of attention when he stood across from a Native American elder on the National Mall, appearing to block the elder’s path.

The teen, Nick Sandmann, eventually filed a $250 million lawsuit against the Washington Post for defamation in regard to the newspaper’s coverage of the incident.

Today, that lawsuit has been dismissed by a federal judge.

From Cincinnati.com:

William Bertelsman, who heard oral arguments in the case earlier this month, issued the ruling on Friday.

Nick and his attorneys, Todd McMurtry and L. Lin Wood, alleged that the gist of The Washington Post’s first article conveyed that Nick had assaulted or physically intimidated Nathan Phillips, engaged in racist conduct, and engaged in taunts.

But, Bertelsman wrote, “this is not supported by the plain language in the article, which states none of these things.”

Bertelsman accepted Nick’s assertion that he was only standing motionless across from Phillips, without ill intent.

But the Eastern District of Kentucky judge ruled that Phillips, who told the media he felt threatened, had a First Amendment right to express his opinion.

“He concluded that he was being blocked and not allowed to retreat,” Bertelsman wrote. “He passed these conclusions on to The Post. They may have been erroneous, but, as discussed above, they are opinion protected by the First Amendment.”

Phillips and Nick were captured on videos that went viral in January when they stood across from each other on the National Mall. Nick stared at Phillips as Phillips participated in a song with other Native Americans.

This video clip went viral, throwing Covington Catholic into the national spotlight. Longer video has since emerged showing how the incident started.Louisville Courier Journal

Bertelsman also ruled it was irrelevant to the defamation case that “Sandmann was scorned on social media.”

Sandmann has also filed lawsuits againt NBC and CNN for their media coverage as well.

Prior to today’s ruling, the teen was looking for a $750 million payday from the three news outlets for the ‘scorn’ he endured.

The other two lawsuits are still pending.

Covington Catholic High School Investigation: We Have Investigated Ourselves And Find We Did Nothing Wrong

An investigation commissioned by the Covington Catholic Diocese reports no evidence of racism by the students of Covington Catholic High School during the now-infamous incident at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2019.
Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips 

An investigation commissioned by the Covington Catholic Diocese reports no evidence of racism by the students of Covington Catholic High School during the now-infamous incident at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2019.

The encounter went viral after video of a male high school student appearing to smirk at a Native American elder was shared across social media platforms.

From The Washington Post:

A short video clip showed Nathan Phillips, playing a traditional drum, in an apparent standoff with student Nick Sandmann, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School, which arranged the trip, were among those who initially condemned the boys’ actions in the video.

The report, prepared by Greater Cincinnati Investigation, Inc. and dated Feb. 11, employed four licensed investigators for approximately 240 hours to take statements from students and chaperones, as well as to interview third-party witnesses and review about 50 hours of video. Investigators were not able to interview either Phillips or Sandmann in person and instead reviewed the student’s written account.

The investigators said they found no evidence that the students responded in an offensive manner to the black Hebrew Israelites or that they chanted “build the wall.” After asking chaperones, they performed a school cheer, according to the report, to drown out the black Hebrew Israelites.

Other key findings include testimony that the students felt “confused” when Phillips approached them. Investigators said they found no evidence of “racist or offensive statements by students to Mr. Phillips,” though some performed a “tomahawk chop.”

We have investigated ourselves and we find we are innocent.

It’s notable that neither Sandmann nor Phillips was interviewed by the investigators.

To this day, I don’t know that everyone was talking about being upset about the same thing.

Were people angry the kid seemed disrespectful?

Were people angry the Native American elder seemed aggressive?

Was this about a young man trying to show his buddies he was ‘tough’ and wouldn’t back down?

I don’t know.

I know, from my perspective, I saw a young man being rude and condescending to a senior citizen.

I wasn’t seeing a racial issue, I just saw a kid who was mocking a senior, thinking he was being ‘funny.’

I watched all of the video out there. I don’t know if someone wants to assign ‘blame’ about the incident even occurring, but nothing has convinced me the kid wasn’t just being a little punk.

You can find the report here.

Nick Sandmann: “As Far As Standing There, I Had Every Right To Do So”

Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann tells Savannah Guthrie he had "every right" to stand his ground during his encounter with Native American elder, Nathan Phillips

NBC News previews the upcoming interview with Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann.

In the short preview, Savannah Guthrie asks Sandmann if he feels he owes anyone an apology or see any fault in how he handled the incident.

“As far as standing there, I had every right to do so,” says the teen. “My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I’d like to talk to him.”

“In hindsight, I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing,” he adds.

Interesting that his first response is having “every right” to stand where he was.

My gut from the beginning was that this was about him ‘standing his ground’ and not ceding or giving in to the Native American.

I don’t know if it was intentional disrespect or if it just came off that way. But it has always appeared to me that he was trying to play ‘big man’ in front of his fellow students.

Sandmann does come off very coached here, but then, it’s public knowledge his family hired a high-powered GOP-aligned public relations firm to do crisis management here.

I’m married to a publicist who’s handled crisis management situations. I’ve seen the kind of coaching that goes on before public appearances.

Watch the segment below.

Guthrie apparently asks Sandmann about the look on his face during the encounter and more in a larger segment set to air tomorrow on TODAY.

By the way, check out the tweet from Savannah Guthrie announcing the interview. Notice the ratio between ‘Likes’ (6.7K) and Comments (28K).

Covington Catholic HS Student Nick Sandmann Issues Statement

Nick Sandmann (L) says he was silently praying in this moment to diffuse
a tense situation between different groups of protestors at the Lincoln Memorial

The student from Covington Catholic High School who has found himself in the national spotlight thanks to the incident at the Lincoln Memorial last week has issued a statement, via his publicist, about his role in the episode.

He begins by identifying himself as Nick Sandmann.

From The New York Times:

In Mr. Sandmann’s statement, which was released by a public relations firm, he said he remained “motionless and calm” in an effort to defuse the situation.

“I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict,” he said.

“I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation,” he said. “I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.

“I harbor no ill will for this person,” he continued. “I respect this person’s right to protest and engage in free speech activities, and I support his chanting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial any day of the week. I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make.”

As I’ve previously written, I’ve watched all the video footage there seems to be about this sad episode.

I haven’t seen anything yet that disputes Nathan Phillip’s perspective on the story.

Phillips freely admits he approached both groups – in an effort to diffuse a tense situation. It is documented in his words and on the longer videos.

Mr. Sandmann says in his statement that Phillips ‘waded into the crowd which parted for him.’ He goes on to say he didn’t see anyone attempt to block the elder’s way.

Except Mr. Sandmann, who was the only student who chose to stand and not allow Phillips to pass.

Here is video of the moment Phillips encounters Sandmann.

Also, at the :27 mark, you can see Sandmann laughing and smiling. He doesn’t look like he views the situation as threatening.

As you can see, Mr. Phillips was surrounded by the Covington students, not the other way around.

Mr. Sandmann says, “I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.”

Perhaps he was praying. It’s very possible that the above image from the moment in question is what prayer looks like.

Sandmann says he ‘did smile at one point’ during the incident. He actually is smiling (smirking?) for well over a minute. A minute is a long time.

I don’t have all the answers but I do have a few questions still:

What is it that people are actually upset about – on both sides?

That the Native American approached the teen and sang his song so close to the boy?

Or that the boy seems disrespectful by standing so close and staring at Mr. Phillips?

Why didn’t the boy simply step out of the way?

In almost every culture I know of, men standing within close proximity to another male, staring them down and ‘standing their ground’ is confrontational in nature. Regardless of who stepped up to who, at any moment Mr. Sandmann could have stepped away.

I’ve seen young leaders ‘step up’ in situations. In my experience, they turn to their friends and say, “Guys, let’s go” and exit the scene. This did not happen here.

Sandmann says he “motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor.” I don’t see any video of Sandmann motioning to anyone to stop. Anyone who has that footage, please send it to me and I’ll post it here.

Sandmann says a student turned to one of the teacher chaperones and asked “for permission to begin school chants to counter the hateful things being shouted” at his group.

So there was a chaperone there. Why didn’t the chaperones intercede? Why was Mr. Sandmann left in this position?

The Washington Post reports this from two witnesses – a lawyer and a photojournalist”

To Jessica Travis, a Florida attorney who was at the memorial with her mother, the students looked out of control.

“The kids really went into a mob mentality, honestly,” she said, adding that she didn’t see any chaperones trying to control the situation. She said she heard one student tell the Hebrew Israelites to “drink the Trump water.”

Jon Stegenga, a photojournalist who drove to Washington on Friday from South Carolina to cover the Indigenous Peoples March, recalled hearing students say “build the wall” and “Trump 2020.” He said it was about that time that Phillips intervened.

A few things:

• The statement was released by a PR office. My husband is a publicist with experience in crisis management. I’ve been ‘behind the scenes’ of a few instances where an incident needed explaining.

• The language used in the statement is clearly drafted by adults and lawyers, not the teen.

• Reading the statement and noting the time frame between the incident, escalation of outrage, and the eventual issuance of the statement, time was taken and each word was weighed. I don’t fault that.

• You’ll note that the statement refers to Phillips repeatedly as ‘the protestor.’ Subtle, but it’s there for a reason. These are PR people who know what they’re doing.

• Some of the students were doing a “Tomahawk chop” and dancing, as the video shows. I view this as mocking. I don’t see another ‘perspective’ on that. Feel free to share in the comments how that could be viewed as “living up to the ideals of faith.”

Also, Sandmann says he has only seen respect for “all races and cultures” at Covington Catholic High School.

In truth, the school has a history of issues with race.

One incident showed several school students in blackface standing near a black player from another school.

And then there’s this gay Covington student’s account of the treatment he experienced there:

Click through that tweet for the full thread.

I will offer this ‘gut’ response based on my experience and everything I’ve read and seen about this: I feel like the statement is crafted to fit the video footage available for people to see.

And, of course, to shine the best light on Mr. Sandmann.

According to his statement, he is not responsible for anything here. At no point does he express any regret for anything.

It seems to me he might have said something like, “I’m sorry this has become a national story – that was never my intention.”

Or he could have said, “Looking at the video, I see it might have been better if I had just stepped away.”

We all make mistakes – including me, god knows.

I go back to, though, what exactly are we upset about? I’m not sure everyone is on the same page about WHAT the outrage is over.

Sandmann does say he has received threats regarding physical harm, and even death. I do not support or encourage that in any way, shape or form. Threats of violence are not any answer.

Also, I do see that the Black Hebrew Israelites behavior appears aggressive towards the teens. I don’t condone the BHI behavior in the video.

Here’s Mr. Sandmann’s full statement issued by his publicist. Click the images to enlarge.