Accuracy in Media

Even after a long holiday weekend of seeing its original narrative blown apart, members of the mainstream media continued to condemn the boys from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky for their actions after the March for Life in Washington on Friday.

Outlets from across the ideological spectrum, including Jake Tapper from CNN, walked back their original stories condemning the Kentucky teens and blaming them for the incident for wearing pro-Trump clothing and hats.

The Atlantic offered “I failed The Covington Catholic Test” – subhead: “Next time there’s a viral story, I’ll wait for more facts to emerge” by Julie Irwin Zimmerman.

National Review, a conservative publication, condemned the students at first, noting, “They mock a serious, frail-looking older man and gloat in their momentary role as Roman soldiers to his Christ,” Deputy Managing Editor Nicholas Frankovich wrote. “As for the putatively Catholic students from Covington, they might as well have just spit on the cross and got it over with.”

But it then came back with “Nathan Phillips Lied. The Media Bought It” – subhead: “There was far more than met the eye to the Covington Catholic story, but that didn’t stop the popular press from vilifying its students.”

The New York Times also tried to recover. Its original story – “Viral Video Shows Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Surrounding Native Elder” – now includes a paragraph in italics at the top that says, “Interviews and additional video footage have offered a fuller picture of what happened in this encounter, including the context that the Native American man approached the students amid broader tensions outside the Lincoln Memorial.”

It links to a piece headlined, “Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video of Native American Man and Catholic Students,” by Sarah Mervosh and Emily Rueb.

“Interviews and additional video footage suggest that an explosive convergence of race, religion and ideological beliefs – against a national backdrop of political tension – set the stage for the viral moment,” Mervosh and Rueb wrote.

But it still painted the boys from Kentucky as the aggressors.

“There were also black men who identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites, preaching their beliefs and shouting racially combative comments at the Native Americans and the students, according to witnesses and video on social media.

“Soon, the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, 64, was encircled by an animated group of high school boys. He beat a ceremonial drum as a boy wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat stood inches away.”

He was encircled by the boys because he walked into their circle, Phillips later admitted. “But on Sunday, Mr. Phillips clarified that it was he who had approached the crowd and that he had intervened because racial tensions – primarily between the white students and the black men – were ‘coming to a boiling point.’”

The boys maintain – and video shows – they did not respond to the Black Israelites’ racial slurs toward them but rather began to chant cheers their school uses at its athletic events.

The Times continued to propagate the notion that wearing pro-Trump clothing or hats was by itself racist.

“For some, invoking the name of Mr. Trump – who has made inflammatory comments about Mexicans and Muslims – has become a racially charged taunt. Inspiration for hateful graffiti and high school cheers alike.”

Slate didn’t even pretend to check the story. “Why, then, did this unexploded grenade of a moment read as so fundamentally disturbing – and spread so quickly?” wrote Ruth Graham in “The MAGA Teenager Who Harassed a Native American Veteran is Still Unnamed, but We’ve Seen His Face Before.”

It was a couple of things. “There was the ahistorical idiocy of wearing a Make America Great Again hate while harassing a veteran, of course. There’s the physical contrast between the young white punk and the Native elder, and between the teen’s cruelty and Phillips’ calm.”

Later, Graham concluded, “It’s the kid’s face. The face of self-satisfaction and certitude, of edginess expressed as cruelty. … The face is both punchable and untouchable.”

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