But less well remembered than the mainstream media’s belated mea culpa was the absurd effort to re-legitimize the initial narrative.

On the next day, January 21, the New York Daily News published a contemptible hit piece attributed to its sports staff titled: “SEE IT: Covington Catholic High students in blackface at past basketball game.” The first sentence read: “This won’t help Nick Sandmann’s case,” as if the story was some sort of indictment of him. In fact, it had nothing to do with him, or any of his classmates at the Lincoln Memorial. The “blackface” incident was from a Covington basketball game years before, in which some attendees had painted themselves black to show school spirit. Ill-advised, in today’s rage-charged climate? Sure. An example of racial harassment? Probably not. In either case, it had nothing to do with Sandmann.

Not to be outdone, Ben Kesslen of NBC News published a story the next day with the headline: “Gay valedictorian banned from speaking at Covington graduation ‘not surprised’ by D.C. controversy.” Kesslen’s piece included critical remarks from the gay valedictorian, as well as a local Native American activist group for good measure. The Covington kids “were not blameless,” said the valedictorian. Readers who consumed the article too quickly may have missed that this student hailed from a different Covington school (albeit one in the same diocese), rendering his subjective impression of what may or may not have happened at the Lincoln Memorial fairly useless.