Trump, chaperones support Covington Catholic students
LEXINGTON, Ky. — President Donald Trump tweeted in support of much criticized Covington Catholic students shown in viral videos facing off with or laughing in the presence of an older, singing Native American protestor at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Catholic high school and Covington Diocese apologized for the students’ behavior toward Native Americans and said “the behavior is opposed to the church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.”
The students, many of whom wore Trump’s slogan on hats, got Trump’s support Monday night. “Looking like Nick Sandmann & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgments proving out to be false — smeared by media,” Trump stated.
In a second tweet sent Tuesday morning, Trump said the students “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!”
Gov. Matt Bevin sent similar tweets Tuesday morning, saying he is “saddened by the whole thing.”
Covington Catholic is closed Tuesday, according to multiple media sources, but it wasn’t clear why. The Covington Catholic Diocese website also was taken down.
Following threats, extra security was in place Tuesday at Covington Catholic, according to FOX 19. The threats were being investigated, Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The American Indian Movement Chapter of Indiana and Kentucky will hold a “peaceful vigil to confront racism” Tuesday morning at the Diocese of Covington, it announced on Facebook. It was going to be held at the school but the group moved it.
Initial shorter and longer videos of the incident Friday showed one student, later identified as Nick Sandmann, as he stood in front of Nathan Phillips, an elder and a veteran of the Vietnam War. As Phillips sang or chanted while beating a drum, Sandmann smiled while other students behind him cheered and laughed. Phillips was singing a song about the Native American movement that was about strength and courage, he told media.
The videos led to thousands of comments ridiculing the students for their behavior.
After additional videos were released showing minutes before the encounter, Sandmann issued a statement that said Phillips confronted him and “got in his face.” Sandmann said his actions weren’t racist.
“I … do not have hateful feelings in my heart and did not witness any of my classmates doing that,” he said.
“I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protestor. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why,” he stated.
Before the separate encounter with Phillips, the boys and the crowd at the memorial were subjected to a small group of street preachers who made a series of inflammatory statements and accusations, according to the videos. The Native American group was not shown making any of those sorts of statements before encountering the boys.
One of the chaperones of the Covington Catholic students, Val Andreev, told the USA Today Network there was no confrontation and nothing to control.
“There was nothing the chaperones could have done differently,” Andreev said. “I’m very proud the way the boys handled the situation.”
Andreev added that the students were set up and the event was staged.
Another chaperone, Jill Hamlin, felt the boys were “targeted for what they stood for, which is Christianity and the right for life,” she said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning.
Phillips turned down an invitation from Cincinnati restaurateur Jeff Ruby to “break bread and make amends” with the students.
“It’s not the right time,” he told the Enquirer. “I might consider it at some point. There’d have to be certain assurances in place, give and take, and understanding.”
Phillips also said Sandmann needs to put out a different statement.
“I’m disappointed with his statement. He didn’t accept any responsibility. That lack of responsibility, I don’t accept it,” he said, according to the Enquirer.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, who represents the area where Covington Catholic is located, said the students received a “brutal lesson in the unjust court of public opinion and social media mobs.”
“I urge everyone to watch the other videos before passing judgment. Would you have remained that composed at that age under those circumstances,” Massie said in a series of five tweets sent Sunday.
“In the face of racist and homosexual slurs, the young boys refused to reciprocate or disrespect anyone,” Massie added. Even when taunted by homophobic bigots, which was obviously bewildering to them, they insulted no one.”
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