In yet another example of why Americans increasingly feel that they cannot trust the mainstream media to provide the complete, unbiased facts on important stories, USA Today's report on Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School being forced to cancel classes Tuesday due to security concerns presents the ugly story in the most general of terms and fails to provide readers with crucial information that blows up early reports libelously portraying the high schoolers as cruel bigots.
On Tuesday — the first day students returned following the release Saturday of a viral video that most mainstream media outlets portrayed as showing the teens "harassing" and "mocking" an adult Native American protester after supposedly hurling racial epithets at minorities — school officials determined it was necessary to cancel school due to the flood of threats against the students, their families, and the school prompted by the early reports.
"Covington Catholic High School is closed Tuesday over security concerns, according to school officials," USA Today reported Tuesday morning.
"After meeting with local authorities, we have made the decision to cancel school and be closed on Tuesday, January 22, in order to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff," Covington Catholic Principal Robert Lowe said in a letter to parents obtained by WXIX-TV. "All activities on campus will be cancelled for the entire day and evening. Students, parents, faculty and staff are not to be on campus for any reason. Please continue to keep the Covington Catholic Community in your prayers."
In its explanation for school officials' decision, USA Today reports that "Tuesday would have marked the first school day since a video prompted public outrage and accusations that students mocked a Native American activist."
Rather than providing details that make clear that the initial flood of reports by media outlets were proven false by video footage showing what proceeded the "face-off" with Native American protester Nathan Phillips, which included the students being harassed by racial activists, USA Today opted simply for this cowardly, ambiguous statement:
Over the weekend, competing narratives unfolded, hours of cell phone footage from different sources was released showing a fuller picture.
USA Today does note that the student at the center of the controversy, junior Nick Sandmann, issued a statement "firmly stating he wasn’t mocking anyone," but fails to take the opportunity to note that the video evidence backs him up or to provide any quotes from his statement.
USA Today also notes that "President Donald Trump took to Twitter defending the teen," but chooses not to actually include the tweets from Trump in which he calls out the media for the shamefully one-side reporting and cites the footage that disproves the original reports.
The outlet does at least acknowlege that "[t]hreats have poured in against students and the school itself with some going so far as to wish a school shooting upon Cov Cath, as it is called locally."
Below is some of the key information that USA Today chose to leave out, opting instead for its vague "competing narratives" comment, staring with Trump's tweets.
"Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media," Trump wrote in a tweet Monday night not included by USA Today. "Not good, but making big comeback! 'New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American' [-Tucker Carlson]."
"Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be," Trump added early Tuesday morning, in another tweet not quoted by USA Today. "They have captivated the attention of the world, and I know they will use it for the good - maybe even to bring people together. It started off unpleasant, but can end in a dream!"
I am providing this factual account of what happened on Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial to correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me.
I am the student in the video who was confronted by the Native American protestor. I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial at 4:30 p.m. I was told to be there by 5:30 p.m., when our busses were due to leave Washington for the trip back to Kentucky. We had been attending the March for Life rally, and then had split up into small groups to do sightseeing.
When we arrived, we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I am not sure what they were protesting, and I did not interact with them. I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group.
The protestors said hateful things. They called us "racists," "bigots," "white crackers," "faggots," and "incest kids." They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would "harvest his organs." I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.
Because we were being loudly attacked and taunted in public, a student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group. The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school. Our chaperone gave us permission to use our school chants. We would not have done that without obtaining permission from the adults in charge of our group.
At no time did I hear any student chant anything other than the school spirit chants. I did not witness or hear any students chant "build that wall" or anything hateful or racist at any time. Assertions to the contrary are simply false. Our chants were loud because we wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us by the protestors.
After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American protestors, who I hadn't previously noticed, approached our group. The Native American protestors had drums and were accompanied by at least one person with a camera.
The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face.
I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.
I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.
During the period of the drumming, a member of the protestor's entourage began yelling at a fellow student that we "stole our land" and that we should "go back to Europe." I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions.
I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protestor. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.
The engagement ended when one of our teachers told me the busses had arrived and it was time to go. I obeyed my teacher and simply walked to the busses. At that moment, I thought I had diffused the situation by remaining calm, and I was thankful nothing physical had occurred.
I never understood why either of the two groups of protestors were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I've ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.
I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. 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.
I harbor no ill will for this person. I respect this person's right to protest and engage in free speech activities, and I support his chanting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial any day of the week. I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make.
I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family's name. My parents were not on the trip, and I strive to represent my family in a respectful way in all public settings.
I have received physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults. One person threatened to harm me at school, and one person claims to live in my neighborhood. My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue.
I love my school, my teachers and my classmates. I work hard to achieve good grades and to participate in several extracurricular activities. I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen -- that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African Americans or Native Americans. I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that.
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. We also support everyone's right to free speech.
I am not going to comment on the words or account of Mr. Phillips, as I don't know him and would not presume to know what is in his heart or mind. Nor am I going to comment further on the other protestors, as I don't know their hearts or minds, either.
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.I can only speak for myself and what I observed and felt at the time. But I would caution everyone passing judgement based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas.
I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting.