What happened at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial last Friday isn’t entirely clear. A large group of high school students from Kentucky, in town for the antiabortion March for Life rally, were gathered there waiting for school buses that would take them home. A small group of Black Hebrew Israelites were there, too, as were participants in the Indigenous Peoples March, held that same day.
You’ve probably heard the story of what happened by now — or, at least, a story. Perhaps you heard that the high school kids from Covington Catholic were being taunted by the Hebrew Israelites and responded with what were described as chants for their school sports teams, the Colonels. Perhaps you saw a video of a Native American man walking between the two groups, singing and beating a drum. Perhaps you saw him later standing face-to-face with one of the students, who was smiling and unmoving. And you probably read at least one of the scores of stories in which the Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, was quoted or included a statement from the student, Nicholas Sandmann.
Even over a holiday weekend, varied opinions of that unexpected encounter spread quickly across the country. On Monday, after seeing a report on Fox News, President Trump weighed in — unequivocally on the side of the students and Sandmann. Trump hyped allegations that the initial response to news of the event, a response that generally criticized Sandmann and the other students as mocking Phillips, were unfair or inaccurate. On Tuesday, Trump continued that theme.