The settlement was significant and should impact outcomes of a variety of other defamation suits that stem from Sandmann and his classmates being swept up in a controversy after a 2019 video clip depicted the "MAGA" hat-wearing student smiling at Native American Nathan Phillips. The man was beating a drum and singing a chant as he was surrounded by Sandmann's peers, who had joined in on the chant in front of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Several mainstream media outlets -- including CNN -- portrayed the incident with Sandmann and the other teens as being racially charged before additional footage surfaced and showed that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites had provoked the confrontation by slinging racial slurs at the students. Footage then showed Phillips, who was in town for the Indigenous Peoples March, approaching the students amid the rising tension between the two groups.
All three networks first covered the student's confrontation with Phillips.
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck wrote that CNN settled with Sandmann "for an undisclosed amount after they tried to ruin his life" but the liberal cable network "had help with blackouts" from ABC CBS and NBC.