The settlement is the first to grow out of a flurry of lawsuits against news organizations filed by the family following the episode in January 2019. The Sandmanns sued The Washington Post for $250 million in February, and later sued NBC and CNN for $275 million for their reporting.
Sandmann, who was 16 at the time, was part of a group of students from Covington Catholic High School who had traveled to Washington to attend an antiabortion march on the Mall. Many were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats and waiting for a bus to pick them up at the memorial when Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, approached.
What happened next sparked a national debate about the behavior and motives of the participants. Initial news accounts said Sandmann blocked Phillips’ way and smiled at him as Phillips beat a small drum and chanted. In the aftermath, Phillips said Sandmann was the aggressor, but Sandmann later said he had no intent to impede or harass Phillips. Video that later emerged showed that a third group, who identified themselves as Black Israelites, had been taunting the group of Kentucky teenagers.
A CNN spokeswoman, Barbara Levin, confirmed a settlement but had no further comment. The Sandmanns’ lead attorney, L. Lin Wood, did not return a request for comment.
In the past, news organizations have settled claims of defamation rather than try the case in court, a route that can be expensive, even with a favorable judgment. CNN, for example, settled a defamation suit filed by Richard Jewell, the Atlanta security guard who was suspected of planting a pipe bomb during the 1996 Olympics. The network paid Jewell and his mother, Bobi,$350,000 but maintained that it had acted properly, according to “The Suspect,” a book published last year about the Jewell case.
Wood was the lead attorney for Jewell.
The Sandmanns’ lawsuits against NBC and The Post are still pending, with no trial dates set.