Accuracy in Media

Nathan Phillips was not done making trouble after the now-famous incident at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., last week.

After Friday’s standoff with the students from Covington Catholic, he and a band of 20-60 followers tried to interrupt a Mass at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday night. A security guard turned away Phillips and his group and locked hundreds of worshippers inside until police arrived and the group departed.

The Daily Mail, an Australian website, reported there were 60 protesters who “tried to disrupt Mass a day AFTER being left ‘shaken and overwhelmed’ by [Phillips’] confrontation with Catholic students.” It said in a subhead “They said they wanted to ‘hold the Catholic Church accountable’ for the events the previous day.”

It said Phillips led to the group up the steps while singing, but security guards blocked them. One guard, the Daily Mail reported, said the group was “’very angry’ and that it was terrifying for those inside.”

If you didn’t hear about this, you are not alone. The Catholic News Agency covered the incident, as did the Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Breitbart and the Daily Mail. The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, Slate, Salon, Los Angeles Times and others did not write about it at all.

The Catholic News Agency and National Catholic Register are owned by EWTN, a company with a number of Catholic media entities. The others are all conservative news outlets.

The Examiner headline reads: “’Really angry’ Native Americans supporting Nathan Phillips tried to disrupt Mass at DC’s national Shrine.” It does not explain in the story who said the protesters were “really angry,” but it does link to a story from Catholic News Agency in which a guard is quoted as saying, “I’m just really grateful that nothing too bad happened. They were really angry.”

The Examiner story does include a quote via the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from Michelle Brass, whom it identifies as a woman from Saskatchewan, Canada, saying, “The action that happened at the church was peaceful, the songs that were sung were prayer songs, they’re songs that convey a fierce love and determination for our people – and all people.”

A statement from the Basilica put the number of protesters at 50 and said the Vigil Mass began at 7 p.m., not 5:15 as had been previously reported. It said the protesters did try to gain entrance to the church and explained why they were turned away.

“In respect and reverence for the Mass, the individuals were not permitted to enter the Basilica due to the disruption it would have caused during the solemn Mass,” the Basilica’s statement said. “The individuals were asked to leave the property after it was determined they did not intend to share in the celebration of Mass.”

The Catholic News Agency story also said church officials suspected trouble and called for police help at 6:27 – more than a half-hour before the service was set to begin. Protesters amassed across the street, with one saying “I’ll watch the cops,” and then climbed the steps and attempted to enter before they were rebuffed. Contrary to their claims to have departure peacefully, a seminarian from California who was at the Shrine said protesters could be heard banging on the doors after they were locked out.

One liberal outlet that did mention the incident was, which claims to be “hosting the conversation on faith.” It cast doubt that the incident ever took place. “They have this [the story on the incident] on the testimony of a security guard who claims he locked the doors to keep them out – which sounds suspicious to me. I don’t think it’s physically possible that that guard sprinted around the Basilica locking every door, and if the Native Americans were really trying to invade the Basilica, they would have just gone through a side door while he was trying to lock the front.”

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