Covington high school students are the latest victims of fake news

After jumping the gun with an uncontextualized video, some doubled down even when presented with conflicting evidence.

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Logan Zeppieri, Opinions Editor

Following the initial coverage and ensuing fiery denunciation of MAGA hat-wearing, Covington Catholic high school students by CNN, the condemnation has been largely reduced to mere journalistic opportunism. Instead of fact-checking the situation, ensuring accurate reporting of a complicated situation, in light of new evidence many in the mainstream media endorsed the false narrative without any further investigation.

A longer video from a different angle was released, and it is apparent that Covington Catholic high school students were not mocking or harassing the Native American man. To the contrary, there is much to learn in this confrontation about our current political climate.


The initial video depicted a confrontation between a high school student and a Native American. The high school student, Nick Sandmann, was smiling and standing inches in front of a Native American, Nathan Phillips, while the he was was pounding on a drum and chanting. The narrative quickly implied that the student, among many in the crowd, confronted a Native American by mocking, harassing him and shouting “Build the Wall.” Furthermore, CNN writes, “Nathan Phillips, an elder with the Omaha tribe, said the confrontation felt like ‘hate unbridled.’”

The responses on Twitter and national media has been at best shocking and at worst horrifying.

Kathy Griffin, a comedian who torpedoed her career after posing in a photo of her holding a prop of the decapitated head of President Trump, tweeted, “Ps. The reply from the school was pathetic and impotent. Name these kids. I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these f——– wouldn’t dox you in a heartbeat, think again.

Erik Abriss, a Vulture writer whom would later be fired for his rhetoric concerning the event, tweeted, “I don’t know what it says about me but I’ve truly lost the ability to articulate the hysterical rage, nausea, and heartache this makes me feel. I just want these people to die. Simple as that. Every single one of them. And their parents.”

It was not simply CNN and a host of commentators such as Meghan McCain and S.E. Cupp who jumped the gun, but also a variety of news organizations, including the New York Times, New York Daily, NBC, ABC, Buzzfeed, the Washington Post and National Review—which deleted its original article.  


Shortly after the initial media blast, an almost two-hour long video was released. In the video, it shows the initial conflict between Covington High School students and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who were shouting racial slurs and homophobic remarks. As the tension rose, near the hour and twelve minute mark, we witness Nathan Phillips, the Native American, walking into the crowd of high school students, banging his drum and chanting.

The response has been mixed in all the wrong ways. Despite the original video being released and the Twitter account that became ground-zero of this incident being banned by Twitter—sparking a question about fake social media accounts spreading such media without accountability—media has tried to salvage their reputation in the most vicious ways.

In an interesting, but telling response, Vox wrote an article that plays a vicious sleight of hand. On the one side, they acknowledge that some in mainstream media have apologized for jumping the gun. However, they jump right back in the narrative by arguing that the student’s smile, or smirk, communicates that I’m better than you, that I don’t even have enough respect for you to even say anything to communicate.”

Instead of cutting the losses and apologizing for peddling a fake story, they give credence that “many have apologized” but then supplement their coverage with “but it is actually really this bad.”


The Covington High School incident is not merely another brick in the wall dividing Americans but also strikes home to those on Biola’s campus. There is a deep and entrenched political atmosphere which says, “I may be wrong, but I will not apologize.” Instead of retracting inflammatory remarks over an uncontextualized video, many double down and sought “the real” reasons why this boy is evil—digging in the student’s psyche and ascribing all sorts of baseless inferences with hope to save their own reputation.

But there is something to learn from this confrontation. When those with whom you disagree confront you, beating whatever instruments and shouting whatever racial slurs, it is always an option to silently bear the brunt of the confrontation with a smile.

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