Rod Dreher today offered this assessment of the one event that seems to be defining this year’s March for Life, the encounter between Native American Nathan Phillips and a group of high school boys from Covington, Kentucky:
Last night before bed, having only seen those shorter videos, I retweeted a condemnation of these boys. Now I regret that, having seen the whole video, and observing how left-wing activists — some of them Christian — are seizing on this ugly incident to discredit the March For Life, a massive annual event protesting the murder of the unborn.
To be clear, it is POSSIBLE that these boys really did make fun of this old Native American man. If that’s what happened, they should apologize.
I don’t think this is what happened at all, though. These boys were already chanting their high school chants. Nathan Phillips confronted them. They don’t appear to understand what point he was making with his own chanting and drum-beating. And now they are held up to the contempt of the country for something they appear not to have done at all. And, the news accounts conveniently ignore the provocative, racist, foul-mouthed attacks on the boys by one of Phillips’s Native American companions.
Here’s something else: in 2015, this same Native American elder, Phillips, confronted college students wearing Indian garb at a college party, and claimed he was treated disrespectfully by them. So he said; no video exists. It appears that he was looking for a confrontation of some sort. If those college boys behaved that way, it was indeed wrong, and offensive. But Nathan Philips seems like a man who seeks out these opportunities for confrontation, and then to go to the media with them. Notice in the clip that went viral, Philips had a man with a camera following him as he approached the MAGA boys.
From what I can tell from over here, what is being reported about the Covington Catholic boys appears to be almost 100 percent Fake News. I started out ready to condemn those boys, but after watching more videos of the entire incident, I changed my mind. I am willing to revise this opinion if more facts come forward, and I welcome your e-mailing them to me.
Read his full assessment of the event here.
I agree with him: this story is turning out to be about a lot more than we first thought. I regret posting on this before more was known. And, we still don’t know the full story; there are many unanswered questions about this incident. I’m curious to learn what the school and the diocese report after their investigation. It’s been noted on Twitter that this is taking on a “Rashomon” quality, where there are many versions of the same moment in time. Clearly, any conclusions (including my own) that were made were premature. I regret that, too, and regret whatever I may have done or said that added to the noise and toxicity of this discussion.
A local TV station in Kentucky did a solid summary of the controversy, with comments and reaction from some of the students, here.
One thing I can conclude right now: this episode brought out the worst in a lot of people. Social media made that abundantly clear last night. Satan is clever that way. The Father of Lies has a gift for turning Catholics against each other.
That seems to have been the ultimate fruit of this event. And I’m sorry I became a part of it.
UPDATE: The student at the center of this firestorm, Nick Sandmann, has issued a statement to the Cincinnati Enquirer. (The New York Times, in its report on this, adds the detail that the statement was issued by a public relations firm.) He described his version of what happened and concludes:
I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name. My parents were not on the trip, and I strive to represent my family in a respectful way in all public settings.
I have received physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults. One person threatened to harm me at school, and one person claims to live in my neighborhood. My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue.
I love my school, my teachers and my classmates. I work hard to achieve good grades and to participate in several extracurricular activities. I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen – that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African Americans or Native Americans. I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that.
I cannot speak for everyone, only for myself. But I can tell you my experience with Covington Catholic is that students are respectful of all races and cultures. We also support everyone’s right to free speech.
I am not going to comment on the words or account of Mr. Phillips, as I don’t know him and would not presume to know what is in his heart or mind. Nor am I going to comment further on the other protestors, as I don’t know their hearts or minds, either.I have read that Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the United States Marines. I thank him for his service and am grateful to anyone who puts on the uniform to defend our nation. If anyone has earned the right to speak freely, it is a U.S. Marine veteran.
I can only speak for myself and what I observed and felt at the time. But I would caution everyone passing judgement based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas.
I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting.
This is the only statement that has been made by the Sandmann family. Any comments attributed to any member of the family that is not contained in this document are fabricated. The family will not be answering individual media inquiries.