A short video clip recorded on Jan. 18 of the students interacting with a Native American elder and anti-Trump activist named Nathan Phillips went viral over the weekend, leading to a slew of news stories that failed to represent both sides of the encounter.
“Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgments proving out to be false—smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback!” Trump said late Jan. 21.
He then quoted Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said during his show on Monday night, “New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American.”
The next morning, he added: “Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be. 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!”
Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019
A number of reporters and activists suggested initially that the Covington students should face consequences with some encouraging violence.
But when the full video footage of the incident began circulating widely, after initially being ignored or missed by the outlets, journalists, analysts, activists, and lawmakers, they deleted initial musings en masse and issued apologies.
“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,” wrote S.E. Cupp, who hosts her own show on CNN.
“I was a complete dolt to put up this and several other obnoxious tweets yesterday without waiting to see the whole video of the incident and I apologize to the kids from Kentucky unilaterally,” added Kara Swisher, a New York Times contributor.
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
Among the tweets Swisher deleted was some in which she called the boys “Nazis” and “nationalists” without evidence.
Rep. John Yarmouth (D-Ky.) backed off his initial statement that said, “I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats until we can figure out what is going on. They seem to be poisoning young minds.”
He later called his statement an “obvious joke” while issuing a lie about what Trump has said in the past.
CNN employee Bakari Sellers deleted a tweet in which he stated, “He is a deplorable,” referencing failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton calling Trump supporters “deplorable.” He added, “Some people can also be punched in the face.”
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) January 21, 2019
CNN analyst Ana Navarro deleted a tweet in which she claimed the boys were racist and had learned their behavior from Trump, without citing evidence. Neither Sellers nor Navarro apologized for the pulled missives.
Many reporters and others also repeated claims made by Phillips that were later proven wrong by the full video, such as the claim that the students were chanting “build the wall.” Phillips also said that the students surrounded him and prevented him from leaving or getting closer to the Lincoln Memorial when it was clear he had room to leave and could have chosen to go around them entirely instead of approaching them and getting in one student’s face.
While it’s unclear if the students and their parents will take any legal action, lawyers offered free legal services to them if they choose to pursue cases against media outlets for alleged libel.