Prof deletes tweet calling Covington teen's face 'punchable,' claims lawsuit has nothing to do with it

A UC-Riverside professor named in a defamation lawsuit brought by the Covington boys has deleted a tweet after nearly a year.

The tweet in question calls Covington student Nicholas Sandmann's face "punchable."

A university professor has deleted a tweet in which he called Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s face “punchable” in response to a viral 2019 video showing Sandmann facing Native American leader Nathan Phillips at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. Attorney Robert Barnes, who is representing the Covington teenagers, suggested a possible reason for the tweet’s removal.

On January 19, 2019, University of California-Riverside professor Reza Aslan tweeted an image of Sandmann facing Phillips, along with the caption, “Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?” As one Twitter user pointed out, nearly one year later, Aslan has deleted that tweet: “LOL now Reza Aslan deleted his Covington tweet. After all this time.”

Barnes took to Twitter on Wednesday to suggest one possible reason why Aslan may have removed the tweet. 

”Apparently, Reza Aslan got served the suit I filed against him on behalf of #CovingtonBoys,” Barnes tweeted in response.

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Aslan, who is also a former CNN host, is named in an August 2019 defamation lawsuit along with Princeton University professor Kevin Kruse. Aslan and Kruse were among a dozen high profile individuals who were sued over public statements about the Kentucky teen.  New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, comedian Kathy Griffin, and CNN commentator Ana Navarro were also named in the suit. 

CNN announced Tuesday that it has settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit over its coverage of the video and how it portrayed Sandmann after additional video footage surfaced painting a more complete context. 

However, Aslan maintains he did not remove the tweet because of a lawsuit. Asked to confirm whether he’s been sued, Aslan said, “LOL. No.”

In a separate tweet Thursday morning, Aslan wrote that he “thought I had deleted that tweet a long time ago, after I clearly addressed my intention in writing it.” 

He later added, “My wife had asked me to delete it and I do whatever my wife tells me to do....I realized I hadn’t and so I did. End of story.”

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Princeton University professor Kevin Kruse was also named in the suit for his January 22 tweet, in which he wrote, “No, the accusation was that this kid and his friends mocked an elderly Native American war veteran and, hey, they did. They also taunted women and shouted ‘it’s not rape if you enjoy it’ but sure, they’re the real victims. According to his PR firm anyway.” Those claims, according to the lawsuit, are false. 

While Aslan has removed his tweet, Kruse’s post was still public on his personal Twitter account at the time of publication. 

In a statement to Campus Reform on Wednesday night, Barnes said that it is “sad that two teachers pride themselves on libeling teenage students.”

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