What other people? Surely not the Black Hebrew Israelites, who had been hurling vicious and bigoted invective at the Covington Catholic high school students? Actually, that is what Nathan Phillips implies to Savannah Guthrie in this interview on NBC’s Today. Phillips claims that people were chanting “Build that wall!” even as Guthrie notes that no news agencies can find any evidence for that claim in the videos. Phillips then adds that “all that anger was directed at those four individuals, the Black Israelites,” which is why he felt he had to intervene:
“Even though I’m angry, I still have that forgiveness in my heart for those students.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 24, 2019
PHILLIPS: Well, if there’s an apology, there’d be an apology for his own behavior, to a lot of other people besides me. I’d be, like, way down on the list of his people he needs to apologize to. …
GUTHRIE: And how did you feel in that moment? Did you yourself feel threatened?
PHILLIPS: Well, all that anger was directed at those four individuals, the Black Israelites and the youth there. And it was getting really explosive.
The anger was directed at the Black Hebrew Israelites? Oddly — or not — NBC’s write-up on the interview never mentions Phillips’ defense of the known hate group. Perhaps that’s because Guthrie never bothered to challenge Phillips on it. For those who haven’t seen what preceded Phillips’ intervention, here’s the video from CBS’ Jan Crawford:
So these are the people who deserve an apology from high-school students? And Guthrie didn’t even bother to ask? This video — which has been out since Sunday — also demonstrates that Phillips is still lying about his actions in creating this confrontation. As Crawford points out, this video clearly shows Phillips and his group walking up to the stationary Covington group as a challenge to them, just after the same group verbally accosted the Native Americans:
It seems that the Black Hebrew Israelites had come to the Lincoln Memorial with the express intention of verbally confronting the Native Americans, some of whom had already begun to gather as the video begins, many of them in Native dress. The Black Hebrew Israelites’ leader begins shouting at them: “Before you started worshipping totem poles, you was worshipping the true and living God. Before you became an idol worshipper, you was worshipping the true and living God. This is the reason why this land was taken away from you! Because you worship everything except the most high. You worship every creation except the Creator—and that’s what we are here to tell you to do.”
Read the entire report on this, but the point is clear — Phillips knew who these people were and what they were there to do. Nevertheless, he tells Guthrie that he wasn’t impressed by Sandmann’s interview yesterday with Guthrie because it was insincere:
“Coached and written up for him. Insincerity. Lack of responsibility. Those are the words I came up with, but then I went to go pray about it,” Phillips said Thursday on TODAY. “And then I woke up, and I woke up with this forgiving heart. So I forgive him.”
As I predicted, Guthrie never asked about Phillips’ attempt to disrupt a Catholic Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception the next day. That would have belied Phillips’ claim of seeking peace through prayer, no? Guthrie did, however, ask about Phillips’ military record and claims that he served in Vietnam. Phillips denied ever making such a claim:
Phillips, a U.S. veteran, also addressed questions circulating about his military record. He clarified that he served in the Marine Corp. reserves for “a couple of years,” but that he never served overseas, specifically in Vietnam as some reports have claimed.
“What I’ve always said is I’ve never stepped foot in south Vietnam. I don’t know how much clearer can that be,” he said. “When I was discharged May 5, 1976, I was told when I got out, ‘Don’t wear your uniform. Don’t say you’re a veteran. People don’t like you out there.’”
Hmmm … isn’t this Phillips saying that he served “in theater” in a video posted a year ago?
Guthrie never bothered to challenge Phillips on this contradiction, either, or even mention it after the interview rolled. This was an embarrassing softball-toss interview, not even as tough as Guthrie was on Sandmann the day before. NBC held a 16-year-old kid to a tougher standard than a grown man and longtime activist, and painted the latter as the aggrieved party despite clear evidence to the contrary. It’s a shameful performance, and one that should prompt apologies not from Sandmann but to him — and to viewers.