A Kentucky judge has dropped presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D.-Mass., from a libel lawsuit filed by eight Covington Catholic High School students on grounds of sovereign immunity.
The lawsuit, filed in August, named Warren along with a New Mexico congresswoman and 10 other public figures claiming they made defamatory comments about the students following their January encounter with Native Americans in Washington, D.C.
Only Warren and Rep. Deborah Haaland, D.-N.M., were dismissed from the suit. “Sovereign immunity ‘extends to agencies of the United States’ or ‘federal officers [acting] in their official capacities,’” the decision by District Judge William O. Bertelsman read.
Sovereign immunity is the doctrine that the U.S. government or those acting on its behalf may not be sued without its consent.
Warren had tweeted that the Native American man at the center of the overblown run-in had “endured hateful taunts."
Haaland, one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, tweeted about the man “being harassed and mocked by a group of MAGA hat-wearing teens."
A viral video clip picked up by mainstream media outlets gave the impression the Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat at the time, and his classmates were taunting and mocking an elderly Native American man following the March for Life rally.
The full video footage later revealed that the Covington Catholic students were harassed by a group called the Black Hebrew Israelites before Nathan Phillips, the Native American man, and other Native American activists approached the students.
“The court concludes that the challenged statements by Warren and Haaland — whether one agrees with them or finds them objectionable — are communications intended to convey the politicians’ views on matters of public interest to their constituents. As such, the statements were made within the scope of defendants’ employment as elected representatives,” Judge Bertelsman decided.
Bertelsman did not exercise jurisdiction over the other 10 defendants in the suit, including CNN’s Ana Navarro; comedian Kathy Griffin; ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd; writer Reza Aslan; Kentucky entrepreneur Adam Edelen; Princeton history professor Kevin M. Kruse; activist and journalist Shaun King; Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery; and Rewire.News editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson.
The case will continue in Kenton County Circuit Court, where it was filed.
Sandmann had separately filed a defamation suit for $250 million against The Washington Post. A federal judge in Kentucky dismissed the case in July, but reopened it on Oct. 28 based on an amended complaint filed by Sandmann's legal team.