The biggest controversy of the last few days, at least online, has involved an incident that took place in Washington last Friday, in which a group of students in town for the March For Life anti-abortion March got into a confrontation with a Native American elder, who was there for the Indigenous People’s March.
The initial wave of coverage of the incident, beginning on Saturday, painted the MAGA hat-wearing students, who were from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, as vicious racists, who had surrounded the Vietnam veteran, Nathan Phillips, and mocked his drumming and chanting. This led to an apology from the school itself and outrage directed at teachers and parents.
Subsequent coverage of the confrontation, from multiple angles and sources, complicated matters, as it made clear that the Covington students had earlier gotten into a lengthy confrontation near the Lincoln Memorial with a group of African-Americans from a group known as the Black Israelites. And the primary student from the video, Nick Sandmann, later put out a statement telling his own side of the story- with the help of a politically-connected PR firm, it was reported on Monday by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
With the actual facts of the situation still a matter of dispute, President Trump has, perhaps inevitably, weighed in on the matter.
“Looking like Nick Sandman [sic] & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false – smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback!,” Trump tweeted on Monday night. “New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American.”
I’m with Josh. The original vid lacked context. Well, now we have context. The original vid went viral due to a network of fake accounts. One poster intimated it’s Trump’s network distracting us from the impasse. Could be. Doesn’t take away from... https://t.co/PO5B2VEa9A— Kate Lowe (@k8lowe) January 22, 2019
Trump went on to tag Fox News host Tucker Carlson, indicating that he had heard about the situation from watching Carlson’s show, possibly in real time. “New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American” is likely taken directly from a Fox News on-screen chyron.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Trump took the side of the people in the story who were wearing his signature hat, although he wasn’t able to spell the student’s name correctly while doing so (it’s “Sandmann.”)
The Covington Catholic story is very much a tale for the present age, comprising everything from identity politics to cultural clashes to social media mobs to the use of modern technology to Americans of differing political persuasions looking at the same incident through wildly different perspectives. And there’s a good chance it will remain in dispute when the episode is remembered far in the future.