Catholic school boys Part II: Some media just can't say they're sorry

Well, the plot grows thicker.

The Make America Great Again hat-wearing Catholic students –- who were in the midst of this past weekend’s controversy told about here -- are back in Covington, Ky. However, the furor has not died down. It followed them home.

Various media continue to climb around this ant hill, digging out what they can.

The scene has shifted back to Covington, which lies across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It took a little while for the Cincinnati Enquirer to get up to speed but they’re finally on it. We’ll start with this piece about local Catholic entities closing their doors out of fear of violence.

Covington Catholic, Covington Latin and Diocese of Covington will be closed for an undetermined period of time following the backlash after a video of students and a man from the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington D.C. went viral.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Covington, the schools and the diocese were closed to due threats of violence toward the school as well as a planned rally outside the diocese.

Now there had been a demonstration, apparently at the local diocesan headquarters (although this poorly written Enquirer story doesn’t specify the exact locale), so it’s little wonder why the locals are nervous.

Other media concentrated on Nathan Phillips, the Native American who waded into the group of boys, then made himself out to be a victim. Then videos and their transcripts proved he was stretching the truth — at best — during his attempts to stay in the limelight.

Then Fox News interviewed a chaperone who was present during the controversial showdown. (Note to Fox: This was not on Capitol Hill; it was a mile away at the Lincoln Memorial.)

“They were singled out; I believe for the color of their skin they were targeted,” the chaperone said in part. “Nick Sandmann had the courage to look this man in the face and diffuse the situation by not reacting.”

Unfortunately, the network didn’t ask the chaperone some hard questions. For example, why were there so few adults with the teens on the steps of the Memorial, as they waited for their bus to head home. Fox also identified the Native Americans accompanying Phillips as “left wing activists.”

So the rhetoric is ramping up, not down.

Meanwhile Phillips has taken to putting out news releases, according to another Enquirer story. Now on Monday, a local restauranteur had offered to fly Phillips to Cincinnati to meet with the students. (There’s an interesting side story about a Covington student volunteering at the restaurant who was mistaken for Nick Sandmann — the student who refused to move aside for Phillips — by some on social media and who got death threats as a result).

But Phillips had refused to meet with the students. On Tuesday:

Update 11:17 a.m.: Nathan Phillips has changed his mind on meeting with CovCath students.

He’s offering to travel as a delegate representing the international coalition behind the Indigenous Peoples March to Covington Catholic High School in and have a dialogue about cultural appropriation, racism and the importance of listening to and respecting diverse cultures, he said in a news release…

“I have read the statement from Nick Sandmann, the student who stared at me for a long time. He did not apologize, and I believe there are intentional falsehoods in his testimony,” Phillips continued. “But I have faith that human beings can use a moment like this to find a way to gain understanding from one another.”

The same story repeated what media had been saying all week about Phillips; that he is a Vietnam veteran. Gateway Pundit is saying he was a refrigerator mechanic for the Marine Corps Reserves. Now this guy told CNN that he was a Vietnam veteran in this CNN transcript. I’m curious why it took until Tuesday for the Washington Post to issue a correction about him.

A Religion News Service story said that Phillips is now asking for a meeting with the Vatican and Pope Francis “to discuss what role the Church might be willing to play in reconciling the Catholic community worldwide with Indigenous people.”

Seems like this man is believing his own press releases a bit overmuch. Meet with the pope? Right. At the bottom of the story, RNS noted that it wished:

… to remove initial claims by Indian Country Today and the Lakota People’s Law Project that Phillips is a Vietnam veteran in light of new reports, with (spokesman Daniel) Nelson explaining Phillips says he served in the military from 1972 to 1976, but never served in Vietnam.

The Washington Times is also asking the same questions about Phillips who calls himself a “Vietnam era veteran.” Now, what is that? If not the war itself, what is he a veteran of? I’m beginning to wonder about this guy, what his real backstory is (as it seems to change by the day) and who nominated him to be the judge and jury here.

By this time, more people had jumped into the mix including Los Angeles Auxiliary Catholic Bishop Robert Barron on the “satanic” response to last Friday’s events.

On the other end of the spectrum was a joint bylined piece by the Washington Post’s media reporter Paul Farhi and digital culture reporter Abby Ohlheiser focusing on the “Trump internet culture.” This feature came up with a bizarre notion of who was responsible for all the poison that happened in the past few days.

As is typical in such breaking-news situations, initial news accounts — which drew howls from partisans on both sides — were unable to provide all the context and facts. It took close to 48 hours for reporters, and a divided America, to fully grasp what had occurred, and to whom. At that point, President Trump weighed in with a tweet supportive of the Covington schoolboys, kicking the dust cloud up anew. …

Those who shared the video in those first 24 hours, including many conservatives, seemed to feel it was emblematic of the vitriol and racism that drives the worst of American culture. But when new details shifted the story into more ambiguous territory, a well-oiled machine of pro-Trump personalities and sites saw an opportunity to strike.

At this point, the two authors could have admitted some of the stupid mistakes the MSM made on the way — but no.

“Post journalists worked diligently on Saturday and Sunday to present the facts of the incident as we learned them,” Cameron Barr, managing editor of The Post, said in a statement. “This was a complex encounter involving many people with sharply different perspectives — we reported what we could verify by talking to participants and witnesses and examining the available video. As is often the case, reporting over time allows a more complete picture to emerge.”…

C’mon Cameron, there were some real screw-ups made by your people, too. Admit them.

In the smartphone age, can reporters really base a major news story on a short clip from a two-hour drama?

Now, a new viral outrage emerged. This time the villain of the story was the news media.

That outrage came from a parallel universe online, one that has been waiting for a moment like this. The pro-Trump Internet has, for years, worked to create a media environment that is designed to destroy the traditional news media and replace it.

Oh, so now the Trump folks are to blame for the faulty news reports?

The Right’s response — including reactions from #NeverTrump scribes — was positively paltry compared with the inaccuracies posted by media on the Left.

Here is a prime example: This CNN video that came out early in the news cycle identified the Black Hebrew Israelites at the Memorial as “four African American men preaching about the Bible and oppression.” Some basic factchecking would have helpful.

It wasn’t until more videos surfaced that we learned that group of black men were spewing the worst kind of hate and were the instigators of this whole mess. CNN got nearly 32,000 comments on the first broadcast, nearly all of them furious about the tone and the mistakes therein. Did any heads roll at the network because of all the inaccuracies? I doubt it.

Later, CNN issued another interview with Phillips, which the National Review tore into for “falsehoods, inconsistencies and nonsense” here.

I’ve been following Ohlheiser on Twitter and know she’s capable of better stuff than this. Fortunately, several folks in the comments section told these writers off.


Trump himself didn’t weigh in on this mess until Monday night. For him, that’s actually an amazing amount of restraint.

At this point, I’ve lost faith in the elite media to accurately report what’s really going on here. This weekend kind of did it for me. I do want to point out Robby Soave’s most recent column for reason.com that does a much better job of dissecting who said what to whom and how it was done during late Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial.

If we are to construct a hierarchy of blame for what transpired, it is crystal clear who belongs at the top: the Black Hebrew Israelites. The poor choices everyone else may or may not have made look pretty insignificant by comparison.

Phillips also engaged in wrongdoing: His choice to blame the boys rather than the hate group exacerbated the fury on social media. And at least one of the members of his entourage appeared to be looking for an argument.

Some of the young men—not Sandmann—should have made other choices, and comported themselves differently in a highly charged and very public setting. Let this be a teachable moment for them.

The worst media stuff, however, came from a media newsletter I got called MuckRack that ordinarily culls the most interesting news of the day for PR professionals. (I tried pitching them a piece recently on including religion news among their subject choices but was told they weren’t interested).

It first linked to a vicious piece on the Covington students from Deadspin that trashed how lots of media pros were “walking back” on their original (wrong) reporting on the confrontation.

MuckRack then mentioned that the PR firm used by Nick Sandmann’s family was run by three partners, one of whom is a conservative political commentator. And this is a problem? Who did you expect these families to hire: the ACLU? They referenced this piece in the Louisville Courier-Journal. I don’t object to MuckRack mentioning these two pieces as much as I resented the nasty tone behind it. Why is it OK for Nathan Phillips to have a PR rep but it’s somehow underhanded for Sandmann to have one?

So here we are at the beginning of the fifth day of this drama. Still to come: Will the Covenant Catholic students get invited to the White House? Will Phillips deign to meet with the students he verbally attacked? Will the students agree to meet with him? Will someone in the media ever blast the black Hebrew Israelite folks whose foul language started the whole mess?

My guesses are yes, yes, no and no.

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