A group of Catholic boys, some wearing red Make America Great Again caps, has been decried for harassing an American Indian as he performed a drum ceremony, but now it appears that there may be more to the story.
Multiple videos taken Friday show Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips and other men walking toward a group from Covington Catholic High School as the boys performed a school cheer, then making their way inside their students’ circle.
“In this midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum. They forced their way into the center of the group,” said a statement from a student provided to WKRC-TV in Cincinnati.
“We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers so we clapped to the beat,” said the statement. “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.”
The episode took place Friday at the end of two concurrent events in Washington, D.C.: the 46th annual March for Life, which the boys had joined, and the Indigenous Peoples March, which Mr. Phillips had attended.
“It was not until later that we discovered they would incriminate us as part of a publicity stunt,” said the student’s statement.
Initial videos posted by liberal activists showed Mr. Phillips surrounded by dozens of teenagers laughing and clapping while one boy stared him in the face, spurring national news coverage condemning the boys for racist “taunting” of the older man, identified as a veteran.
“A troubling scene many are calling racist played out in Washington yesterday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,” said NBC News anchor Jose Diaz Balart. “Some students harassing an older Native American, a Vietnam vet, in the midst of a special ceremony.”
“Teens in Make America Great Again hats mock Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial,” the CNN headline said.
Rep. Deb Haaland, New Mexico Democrat, blasted the students, tweeting that their “display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.”
But others say the extended video shows that Mr. Phillips spurred the confrontation.
“In it, one of the Catholic boys is overheard asking, ‘Does anybody know what he’s doing? Does anybody know what’s going on here?’ ” Rod Dreher said in a Sunday article for the American Conservative.
“And in it, one of the Indians with Phillips shouts: ‘White people, go back to Europe. This is not your land.’ He curses the students with F-bombs (video is NSFW). He goes on: ‘You’re being a white man about it. That’s all you know how to do,’ ” Mr. Dreher said.
“You didn’t see that in the news reporting, did you?” he added.
After the drumming stops and the crowd disperses, a speaker with a fringe group called the Black Hebrews begins accusing President Trump of homosexuality.
Princeton professor Robert George apologized for initially blaming the students from Park Hills, Kentucky.
“I apologize to the Covington Catholic boys,” Mr. George tweeted. “What Rod Dreher says of himself goes double for me. I jumped the gun and that was stupid and unjust. It is I, not the boys, who needs to take a lesson from this.”
In an interview, Mr. Phillips said that some of the students chanted “build the wall,” although the video does not show that.
“Chants of ‘build the wall’ and other things that were even worse,” Mr. Phillips told NBC. “They were brought up to believe I’m less than human.”
In 2015, Mr. Phillips drew headlines after accusing students at Eastern Michigan University of mocking American Indians at a party by dressing in feathers and face-paint and then taunting him with racial slurs.
“So he said; no video exists,” Mr. Dreher said.
The March for Life issued a statement condemning the “reprehensible behavior shown in the video,” while Covington Catholic issued a statement extending its “deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips.”
The Diocese of Covington is investigating the incident, and the students could be expelled, according to NBC News.