An in-depth investigation undertaken by investigators hired by a Kentucky diocese has confirmed that the group of Catholic schoolboys involved in a confrontation with a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial did not instigate the incident. The teens were embroiled in a massive media storm following the release of footage that showed Native American activist Nathan Phillips go toe-to-toe with high schooler Nick Sandmann.
Despite the media spinning a narrative that suggested Sandman and his classmates had goaded Phillips into a confrontation by making racist remarks, this account of the events was quickly debunked as a myth. Covington Bishop Roger Foys initially followed the same line as much of the media, apologizing for the boys’ behavior, before retracting his statement a few days later as a more accurate picture of the incident emerged. The bishop now insists that the students, who were in Washington D.C. to attend the annual March for Life, “were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening,” according to Fox News.
“The immediate world-wide reaction to the initial video led almost everyone to believe that our students had initiated the incident and the perception of those few minutes of video became reality,” Bishop Foys added.
What does the investigators’ report conclude?
The extensive investigation, conducted by a firm called Greater Cincinnati Investigation, involved interviews with 43 students and over a dozen chaperones who were in attendance during the incident. Investigators also analyzed the extensive number of videos that surfaced on social media in the wake of the confrontation. All in all, the firm said it found “no evidence of racist statements,” on behalf of the school group.
“We found no evidence of racist statements to Mr. Phillips or members of his group,” the report said. “Some students performed a ‘tomahawk chop’ to the beat of Mr. Phillips’ drumming and some joined in Mr. Phillips’ chant.”
With regards to Phillips’ account of the confrontation, investigators said that it contained clear “inconsistencies.”
The investigation also addressed a video clip which clearly recorded one of the group making a derogatory remark regarding sexual assault: “It’s not rape if you enjoy it,” he could be heard saying. The investigators confirmed that this person was not a Covington Catholic student.
In addition, the report noted that the Covington boys came under verbal attack from a group of “Black Hebrew Israelites,” who “clearly addressed offensive statements to the students.” According to the findings, this resulted in the students asking chaperones if they could call out their school cheers to “drown out” the Black Hebrew Israelites.
What was the response to the report?
As you can imagine, not everyone agreed with the conclusions that were made in the report. Lance Soto, a member of the Cocopah tribe and leader within the Indiana and Kentucky chapter of the American Indian Movement told USA Today that the “tomahawk chop,” is often employed as a racist and mocking gesture.
“I hope that our people realize that it’s not up to white people to determine what is racist or derogatory toward Native Americans,” he said. “They (the investigators of the Covington Catholic incident) need to ask a Native American. And there are plenty of us living here.”
Bishop Foys, in a letter accompanying the report, took a very different view.
“Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory,” he said. “These young high school students could never have expected what they experienced on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial while waiting for the busses to take them home. Their stance there was surely a pro-life stance.”