New evidence appears to debunk claims that a group of pro-life students taunted a Native American man Friday after the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
A short video released Saturday initially appeared to show students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky provoking Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Native American and veteran who was in D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples March.
Specifically, a student named Nick Sandmann could be seen on the video standing very close to Phillips and smiling at him as Phillips sang and beat on a drum, according to the Washington Examiner.
Sandmann, who was wearing a Make America Great Again hat, was accused of racism and even received death threats after the initial video went viral.
However, a new, longer video shows that there was much more to the story.
Far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby. The BHI has existed since the late 19th century, and is best describes as a black nationalist cult movement; its members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites, and often express condemnation of white people, Christians, and gays. DC-area Black Hebrews are known to spout particularly vile bigotry.
Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people. What followed was several minutes of confusion: The teens couldn’t quite decide whether Phillips was on their side or not, but tentatively joined in his chanting. It’s not at all clear this was intended as an act of mockery rather than solidarity.
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One student did not get out of Phillips way as he marched, and gave the man a hard stare and a smile that many have described as creepy. … I have no idea what he was thinking, but portraying this as an example of obvious, racially-motivated hate is a stretch. Maybe he simply had no idea why this man was drumming in his face, and couldn’t quite figure out the best response? It bears repeating that Phillips approached him, not the other way around.
In a statement to WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, one student who was there said Phillips and several other adults “forced their way” into their group as they were waiting for their bus.
“We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers so we clapped to the beat,” the student said. “He came to stand in front of one of my classmates who stood where he was, smiling and enjoying the experience. However, after multiple minutes of Mr. Phillips beating his drum directly in the face of my friend (mere centimeters from his nose), we became confused and started wondering what was happening.
“It was not until later that we discovered they would incriminate us as part of a publicity stunt,” the student said.
Later, in a statement, Sandmann said he was confused by the whole incident and he smiled only to let the other protesters know that he would not be intimidated.
“I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor,” he said. “I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me – to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.”
The new evidence prompted several prominent individuals to take back their initial condemnation of the students, including Princeton University Professor Robert P. George and Andy Lassner, executive producer of “The Ellen Show,” according to the report.
New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote Sunday: “Yesterday I had one impression of the maga kids from Kentucky. Now after seeing more videos I have a different more complicated impression. Makes all the hot takes seem silly.”
Two Kentucky lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie, also defended the boys after seeing longer videos that showed the whole incident.
Unfortunately there is too often a rush to judgement from our media and social media these days. We should stop and look at the facts first.
The Media Wildly Mischaracterized That Video of Covington Catholic Students. https://t.co/NATjAQNqVW
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 21, 2019
(3/5) I’ve now watched over an hour of other videos from 4 different cameras of the incident in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I urge everyone to watch the other videos before passing judgement. Would you have remained that composed at that age under those circumstances?
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 20, 2019
Sandmann said he will cooperate with any investigation of the matter, and he respects Phillips and his right to free speech.
“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,” he said in the statement. “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.”