Journalists and pundits who rushed to condemn a group of Covington Catholic High School students began to retract their statements after seeing a fuller video of an incident in which they were accused of harassing an older Native American protester.
Video first began circulating Saturday showing a student wearing a Make America Great Again hat staring into the face of 64-year-old Nathan Phillips, a Native American man beating a drum.
The short clip made it appear that the student, Nicholas Sandmann, was staring down Phillips, trying to intimidate him. An interview with Phillips after the confrontation showed him wiping away tears, talking about how he was intimidated by the students.
Voices on the left — and some on the right — rushed in to condemn the boys, some even calling for them to be physically hurt.
However, by Sunday, a fuller video of the incident emerged, showing “Black Israelite” protesters taunting the students with insults and gay slurs, and then Phillips approaching the boys where they were waiting for their bus to leave.
The video showed that Phillips approached the group of boys, drumming, as the Black Israelites egged on a confrontation. Phillips approaches Sandmann, who does not move away, but stands still, looking at Phillips.
After that video, and statements from the students, some of those same voices that called for the boys to be punished began backtracking.
National Review quietly deleted its article, posted Sunday at 2:55 a.m. and entitled, “The Covington Students Might as Well Have Just Spit on the Cross,” without explanation. NRO Deputy Managing Editor Nicholas Frankovich wrote: “‘Bullying’ is a worn-out word and doesn’t convey the full extent of evil on display here.”
“Decide for yourself who is more pleasing to Christ, Phillips or his mockers. As for the putatively Catholic students from Covington, they might as well have just spit on the cross and got it over with,” he wrote. The article can be found archived here.
Bill Kristol deleted his tweet evoking the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), asserting that McCain would have called Phillips to express regret, according to Screenshot Bot, a Twitter bot that captures deleted tweets.
— Screenshot Bot (@sshotbot) January 21, 2019
Bakari Sellers, a former politician and CNN pundit, deleted his tweet calling for Sandmann to be “punched in the face.”
“He is a deplorable. Some ppl can also be punched in the face,” his tweet said, according to the Screenshot Bot.
— Screenshot Bot (@sshotbot) January 21, 2019
Some were more open about their retractions after watching the fuller video.
38 thousand retweets vs 60. pic.twitter.com/5XO26w5jWa
— Ben McDonald (@Bmac0507) January 21, 2019
Many other Blue-Checkmarks backed down, admitting they had rushed to judgment.
Hey guys. Seeing all the additional videos now, and I 100% regret reacting too quickly to the Covington story. I wish I’d had the fuller picture before weighing in, and I’m truly sorry.
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) January 21, 2019
me too https://t.co/0om9VTZQiH
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) January 21, 2019
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.
— David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) January 20, 2019
Media outlets began following suit, updating their stories and doing follow-ups that acknowledged their first stories did not show the full picture. As the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway noted, the New York Times published a headline that said the studenst had mobbed Phillips. A follow-up headline said, “Fuller Picture Emerges.”
Shorter NYT: Please don't sue us. pic.twitter.com/CDpHqcO5Cw
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) January 21, 2019
The Washington Post edited a headline that said, “‘It was getting ugly’: Native American drummer speaks on the MAGA-hat-wearing teens who surrounded him,” to “‘It was getting ugly’: Native American drummer speaks on his encounter with MAGA-hat-wearing teens.”
Some outlets issued updates to their stories.
Boingboing.net updated its headline and added a new graf:
UPDATE 1-20-19: This story appears to be more complex than what was seen in the video above and from news reports in the Washington Post, CNN, New York Times, and other major news media. After watching a much longer video that shows the lead-up and aftermath of the incident, it doesn’t look like the high school students were harassing the Native Americans as was reported yesterday.
Despite these deletions, retractions, and backtracking, many on Twitter continued to call Sandmann “racist” and other derogatory names on Monday.