Footage of a Native American elder seemingly facing off against a crowd of jeering high-school students wearing ‘Make American Great Again’ hats triggered a massive backlash – but turned out to have been taken way out of context.
The videos that initially flooded social media on Friday showed an elderly man beating a hand-drum, surrounded by a crowd of high-school students, who can be seen jumping around and cheering. One boy in particular is seen standing very close to the man with what many considered to be an unabashed smirk on his face.
No slogans or chants can be heard in the videos, although some of the uploaders said the students were chanting “Build the Wall!” and mocking the elderly man, who turned out to be Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Vietnam War veteran and Native American elder.
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this is our reality. 2019. a swarm of young, unattended Trump supporters gathered to cause a scene, disrespect our cultures, and put fear into us. i was pushed and laughed at by teenage boys who grew up to believe their lives are more important than ours. they shouted things like “Gone in 2020” and mocked us. i am still in shock. i don’t know what to say other than that i’m sad and deeply shaken. this is our reality. 2019. . . . . . . EDIT: i do not intend to discount your fear, anger, and upset, but please keep in mind these boys are of high school age. i am tired, i am upset, and i am overwhelmed, but all i wish is for these boys to be reprimanded by their schools, parents, and friends. i posted this with the intention to spread the reality of being indigenous in 2019. we did not meet these boys with violence for a reason. mvto for the support.
The incident took place near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, where the Indigenous People’s Day March coincided with an anti-abortion March for Life. The boys in the video were from the Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, who had attended March for Life event and were apparently waiting for buses to pick them up.
Phillips then appeared in another Instagram video, in which he said: “When I was there singing, I heard them saying ‘Build that wall, build that wall.’
“This is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did,” he said, while wiping away tears.
The story was instantly scooped up by liberal-minded mainstream media outlets. The elder gave an interview to CNN, in which he said that he had “fear for those youths, fear for their future, fear for their souls, their spirit, what they’re going to do to this country.”
The Native American who apparently was being mocked by teens wearing MAGA hats in a viral video says he has “fear for those youth, fear for their future, fear for their souls, their spirit, what they’re going to do to this country.” pic.twitter.com/EBp82POgio
— McSpocky™ 👽🖖 🌀 (@mcspocky) January 20, 2019
The story provoked a massive wave of outrage as many people were quick to condemn the boys for their “hatred” and express their support for the man.
Ps. The reply from the school was pathetic and impotent. Name these kids. I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these fuckers wouldn’t dox you in a heartbeat, think again. https://t.co/IS80wiaQ7v
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) January 20, 2019
For the people who watched the Covington Catholic High School students’ bigoted harassment of nonviolent Native American protesters and asked, “Where were the parents?” we have the answer: parroting Trump’s rhetoric and defending their kids’ conduct. https://t.co/Saxy2ngOyN
— Miranda Yaver (@mirandayaver) January 20, 2019
Politicians and celebrities also joined the chorus of critics as they added their weight to the issue. The fact that many of the boys were wearing hats with US President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” added fuel to the fire and gave the whole issue a political edge.
This is Trump’s America. And it brought me to tears. What are we teaching our young people? Why is this ok? How is this ok? Please help me understand. Because right now I feel like my heart is living outside of my body. https://t.co/QMxMDxNjvr
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) January 19, 2019
This is appalling. The ignorance. The gall. The disrespect. It’s shameful. And sadly on brand. When something like this isnt even surprising, it’s evidence to our place in the cycle of recreating our darker chapters. That Native American man showed incredible strength and dignity https://t.co/Im4KLw3sV7
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) January 19, 2019
The Covington Diocese and school administrators quickly caved into issuing an apology, condemning the actions of the students and vowing to investigate the case, floating the possible expulsion of the boys.
Almost immediately, numerous people rallied to the students’ defense, revealing evidence that the story wasn’t as clear-cut as the mainstream media had rushed to portray. Footage taken from another angle was posted online, which showed that the Native American was the first to approach the students. It was he who moved close to the boy in the video and “wielded a metal drum stick in the student’s face,” as some people put it.
The boys from Convington Catholic did nothing wrong. The media reached a new low by attacking high schoolers.
— Ryan Fournier (@RyanAFournier) January 20, 2019
Black adults to white kids: “F*ggots, crackers, bigots, incest kids.”
White kids: [smiling, not responding]
Everyone: “omg did you see that smile?! So disrespectful!”
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) January 21, 2019
The mainstream media is losing their minds over a few kids standing in front of a Native American as he played his drum. But when have they ever expressed outrage over Trump supporters being verbally accosted and physically attacked for wearing #MAGA hats?
Oh. Never. pic.twitter.com/E9EWlEiw6J
— CJ Pearson (@thecjpearson) January 20, 2019
One of the boys said in a letter to media that it had been the Native Americans who “forced their way into the center of our group,” and now his friend was “facing expulsion for simply standing still.”
Another letter, which was allegedly sent by the mother of one of the boys to another US media outlet, dismissed the whole incident as “fake news” and said that the boys were instead harassed by a group of black people “yelling profanities.”
A separate, nearly two-hour-long video indeed shows a group of African Americans standing not far from the crowd of school children. The group, identified in the video as Black Hebrew Israelites, can be heard hurling insults and obscenities at the Catholic school boys (example at 1:07:46 in the video).
Faced with backlash from the initial outrage, CNN was forced to look at the story more closely and release a report detailing what preceded the confrontation between the “MAGA kids” and elder Nathan Phillips. While admitting the tension was first started by the African American group, they repeated Phillips’ soundbites about feeling threatened and fearing for the schoolboys’ souls.
Other outlets and personalities also backtracked, some more cautiously than others.
A fuller picture emerged on Sunday of the videotaped encounter between a Native American man and a group of high school boys wearing “Make America Great Again” gear outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington https://t.co/H0EYQ0PcmU
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 21, 2019
My friend @robbysoave is one of the best journalists I know… I, like many others may have reacted too quickly. Apologize for being part of a media pile on. Please read his piece. https://t.co/WhJ5auQ3TQ
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) January 20, 2019
It remains unclear whether Covington Catholic High will now abandon the idea of punishing the students or whether Philips’ statements will face additional scrutiny – but the confusing mix of ethnic, political & religious tension, “fake news” and the unstoppable power of social media is already looking like a solid contender for America’s “peak 2019” moment. And it’s only January.
Today’s hot Twitter takes:
From the Left: All Catholic high school students are racists who hate Native Americans.
From the Right: @CNN and Native Americans got together and colluded to make it look like all Catholic high school students are racists.
We should all be proud.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) January 20, 2019
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