The Covington Kids: The Whole Story


A video of Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, left, and Native American activist Nathan Phillips went viral after their encounter in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2019. Screenshot via YouTube

John Orzechowski, Head Writer

Make America Great Again.

For some, it’s a rally cry that will lead to positive change in the country. For others, it’s synonymous with hatred, bigotry, and racism.

In the past week, Covington Catholic High School has gone from a private school minding its own business in northern Kentucky to a breeding ground for KKK members who advocate for a new Trail of Tears. And the “Make America Great Again” slogan is at the center of this controversy.

On January 18th, a class of kids from CCHS took a class trip to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. While they were there, they decided to impose their whiteness and privilege on a Native American man who wasn’t doing anything but beating a traditional drum at an indigenous people’s rally, and there’s video proof.

It looks pretty bad, all thirty seconds of it.

The video showed Nathan Phillips, an Omaha Tribe elder, being engulfed in a sea of sweatpants, hoodies, white skin, and MAGA hats, all while peacefully beating his drum.

He was 2019’s tank man from Tiananmen Square.

And when people saw the video, they were appalled. Because the video, lacking any real context, showed us what was wrong with America. White, Catholic, brainwashed Trump supporters who had no respect for Native Americans or veterans (Phillips had served in Vietnam), or anyone who wasn’t in line with their supremacist views. To put it simply, they were punks.

Only, that wasn’t what happened.

Because only days after the first video, more footage from the rally surfaced, revealing that these events were way more complicated.

First, there weren’t two sides, there were three. There were the students from CCHS, the Native Americans at the Indigenous Peoples March, and about four members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a small religious group that practice Judaism and Christianity to varying degrees, from moderate to extreme.

The Native Americans were holding their rally at the National Mall. And while they were standing there peacefully, the BHIs started harassing them from twenty feet away, calling them “totem worshippers” and telling them that they’re “not supposed to worship eagles, buffalos, rams, all types of animals.” Basically they were just being rude to a group that was minding its own business.

Some of the Native Americans started to get worked up and started arguing back, and then the BHI preacher attempted to deflect their anger onto a group of MAGA hat wearing kids watching from the side, waiting for their bus. But the Native Americans stayed in line, didn’t engage the kids, and kept focused on the Black Hebrew Israelites. The Black Hebrew Israelites started hurling insults at the CCHS kids, blaming them for the shutdown and the state of the country because of their hats.

Soon, the kids stopped associating with the BHIs and walked away, even though they continued to be obnoxious and call them “little dirty ass crackers.” The group of a dozen or so boys that had been under attack went and joined the rest of their class and started doing school chants to try to drown out the Israelites.

Then, Nathan Phillips, the Native American elder, approached them and started beating his drum in the middle of the crowd. And the drum beat is in line with their chants, so they thought that he and the other drummers were joining them, so they got hyped. And that’s when the first video was shot. This Native American elder, standing still but beating his drum, while kids in MAGA hats jump around him and shout.

And because of a thirty second clip, Covington Catholic High School had been closed down due to security threats, these kids are receiving death threats, and a man who was reported AWOL in the Vietnam Era three times was held as a national hero.

We now know Phillips told several lies to the media before a full video was released.

  1. He heard them chanting “Build that Wall” and had to step in. –  In over two hours of video, there’s never once a shot of these kids saying this. However, the BHIs shout it at the white kids, in an attempt to mock them.
  2. The kids approached and surrounded him. –  It’s obvious that he approached them. You can see it in the video.
  3. The kids were attacking the Black Hebrew Israelites. –  The kids actually stepped away from from the BHIs, who had been attacking them and the Native Americans. The kids were doing nothing.

These kids tried to help Phillips and his group of Native Americans. They attempted, with moderate success, to drown out the Black Israelites, who were saying racist and hateful things. And this man, who lied about fighting in Vietnam and has a criminal history including assault and breaking out of prison, completely hung them out to dry.

Because of how it looked in a short video, twitter took up arms immediately. Howard Dean, a retired governor, tweeted “#CovingtonCatholic high school seems like a hate factory to me” and actress Alyssa Milano expressed her outrage by saying “This is Trump’s America. And it brought me to tears. What are we teaching our young people? Why is this ok? How is this ok? Please help me understand. Because right now I feel like my heart is living outside of my body” and Kathy Griffin, the “comedian” who once posted a video of her holding Donald Trump’s bloody severed head, said “The reply from the school was pathetic and impotent. Name these kids. I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these f***ers wouldn’t dox you in a heartbeat, think again.”

And they said this because they trusted what the media reported. The thing is, most of these responses aren’t outlandish (Griffin being an exception). The way the media reported the news, from MSNBC immediately praising the ‘harassed’ Phillips to Vox reporting “white students in MAGA gear taunt Native American Elders” immediately vilified them. And everyone trusted the media enough to side against the kids, and that’s why Kathy Griffin wants names. People should be able to trust the media. They shouldn’t look like fools when the truth surfaces.

These kids tried to help a group of Native Americans being harassed by racist, extremist “preachers,” and the media has absolutely ruined them because of a hat. Their parents face being fired for raising such monsters. They live with actual death threats. All because the media misreported something.

If they’d seriously mocked him, this would be a different discussion, but it still shouldn’t ever reach this level. The media needs to do some serious soul searching. Next time a MAGA hat is on a kid in a video, maybe they won’t put a permanent stain on that kid’s life for no reason.