February 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Third-party investigators commissioned by the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School to investigate the conduct of a group of students involved in a high-profile encounter at the March for Life have released the findings of their report, which concludes the students did not commit the offensive acts initially attributed to them.
Last month, the kids found themselves in the middle of a firestorm after reports claimed a video showed them harassing elderly Native American veteran Nathan Phillips. But additional video and firsthand accounts soon revealed Phillips was the one who waded into the group and beat a drum inches from student Nick Sandmann’s face, and members of the Black Hebrew Israelites fringe group shouted racial taunts at the kids. The boys said they were performing school cheers to drown out the harassment.
Among those who condemned them based on false initial reports were the Diocese and school themselves, who issued a statement that their behavior was “opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” and suggested they could potentially be expelled. After the original narrative fell apart, Bishop Roger Foys announced an “independent, third-party investigation is planned to begin,” and that it was “important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate.”
Many criticized the community’s Catholic authorities for rushing to judgment, leading Foys to eventually issue another statement apologizing for “allow[ing] ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely,” and expressing hope that the results of the investigation would “exonerate our students so that they can move forward with their lives.”
Greater Cincinnati Investigation completed its report on Monday. They found no evidence of students chanting “build the wall” or making racist statements to Phillips, confirmed that Phillips approached the students and that they had been chanting to drown out the racist taunts, and that a boy who appears in one video making a tasteless joke trivializing rape was not a Covington student.
Neither Phillips nor his daughter responded to any of multiple attempts to get their version of events, the report notes.
“In these past several weeks since the original video went viral two well-worn and oft-used adages have come to mind: Seeing is believing and Perception is reality,” Foys wrote in a new letter accompanying the report. “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.” He did not reference the Diocese’s own role in that trend or offer a final apology.
“In truth, taking everything into account, our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening. Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory,” he continued. “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.”
While the Covington students are finally free from the threat of disciplinary action, the controversy has not yet been fully resolved. The FBI is reportedly currently investigating violent threats against the school, and attorneys representing the students have threatened to sue numerous media figures and Nathan Phillips himself for defamation.