The lawyer for Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann says he will begin filing defamation lawsuits this week, as the Kentucky school’s diocese released a private investigative report clearing students of instigating the Jan. 18 incident at the Lincoln Memorial.
“Nick Sandmann is 16 years old & has 2½+ years to identify accusers & sue them,” Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood said Saturday on Twitter. “No member of mainstream & social media mob who attacked him should take comfort from not being sued in initial round of lawsuits which will commence next week. Time is Nick’s friend, not his enemy.”
In videos of the incident, Nick is the student wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap who smiles as American Indian activist Nathan Phillips approaches him, chanting and pounding a drum. Nick and his classmates, who gathered for the March for Life on the National Mall, had felt the sting of insults from a group called the Black Hebrew Israelites.
An initial burst of liberal Twitter feeds claimed the students provoked the incident, insulted Mr. Phillips and yelled “build the war.”
The tweets triggered mass condemnations from liberal activists, Democrats, Hollywood and noted mainstream media reporters.
On air, HBO’s “Real Time” host Bill Maher called Mr. Sandmann a “little pr—k.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, tweeted: “Omaha elder and Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips endured hateful taunts with dignity and strength, then urged us all to do better.”
One liberal tweeted that someone should burn down the school in Park Hills, Kentucky, with the students locked inside.
Even the Catholic Diocese of Covington in northern Kentucky quickly condemned its students.
But as more videos surfaced, a different picture arose. No one yelled about the southern border wall. Mr. Phillips initiated the encounter. No one could be heard insulting him. Some students repeated his chants.
To drown out the Israelites’ insults, chaperones gave students permission to sing the school fight song.
The Feb. 11 diocese-commissioned report was conducted by Greater Cincinnati Investigation Inc. in Taylor Mill, Kentucky.
“We found no evidence of offensive or racist statements by students to Mr. Phillips or members of his group,” the report said. “Some students performed a ‘tomahawk chop’ to the beat of Mr. Phillips’ drumming and some joined in Mr. Phillips’ chant.”
Few students wore MAGA hats. “We found no evidence of a school policy prohibiting political apparel on school-sponsored trips,” the report said.
At some point, the chaperones moved in to break up the gathering and direct students to buses, although the vehicles had not yet arrived for the return trip to Kentucky.
Investigators interviewed 43 students and 13 chaperones, while examining 50 hours of internet activity including videos and news media reports. Nick supplied his publicized written statement, which investigators determined was accurate.
“The protesters said hateful things,” Nick said. “They called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘f——-s’ and ‘incest kids.’”
“The statements we obtained from students and chaperones are remarkably consistent,” said the report, signed by investigator Chad Moran.
The report said investigators reached out by phone and email to Mr. Phillips but received no reply. They visited his home in Michigan, but he didn’t appear.
After the report’s release, Mr. Wood tweeted: “I am not holding my breath waiting for an investigative report from Washington Post, CNN, Associated Press, etc., etc. Litigation will reveal that Nick’s accusers conducted no proper investigation prior to publishing their false attacks on a minor. Discovery is a stubborn thing.”
Mr. Phillips told the New York Daily News that the kids “looked like a lynch mob.” He said he tried to move past them, but they blocked his path.
Mr. Wood says he plans to sue Mr. Phillips, whom he calls a “documented liar.”
Mr. Phillips, who was on the Mall for the Indigenous Peoples March, has strongly implied that he served in Vietnam during the war as a Marine Corps “recon ranger”
His record shows he served as a Marine reservist who never left the States. He worked as a refrigeration technician, went AWOL three times and left service as a private.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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