Judge Dismisses $250 Million Lawsuit From MAGA Teen

Nicholas Sandmann had sued the Washington Post for defamation.


A federal judge on Friday dismissed a $250 million defamation lawsuit filed by Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student whose video confrontation with a Native American man at the January Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC sparked a firestorm of controversy.

Sandmann had accused the Washington Post of negligently committing libel against him. 

Initial videos of the encounter appeared to show Sandmann, who was in DC wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat for a separate March for Life rally, facing down Native American elder Nathan Phillips, which is what the Washington Post had reported at the time. Additional videos showing another group taunting both the Covington students and Phillips’ group only added to the confusion on social media. 

Sandmann later said that he was only calmly hoping to defuse the tense situation.

“The Court accepts Sandmann’s statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not to impede or block anyone,” Judge William Bertelsman wrote in his order. “However, Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being ‘blocked’ and not allowed to ‘retreat.’ 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. And The Post is not liable for publishing these opinions.”

Bertelsman noted that although the Post’s initial characterization may have been “erroneous,” their publishings were protected under the First Amendment. 

“Therefore, having reviewed this matter carefully, and being fully advised, it is ordered that the Post’s motion to dismiss be, and is hereby, granted.”

Read the opinion here:


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.