Media Criticism

A Year Ago, the Media Mangled the Covington Catholic Story. What Happened Next Was Even Worse.

Journalists and pundits who frantically doubled down on their initial bad takes deserve more criticism.

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On the weekend of January 18, 2019, a short video appeared on Twitter that purported to show a group of Catholic high school boys—one young man, Nicholas Sandmann, in particular—harassing a Native American elder named Nathan Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

One year later, the media's reckless mishandling of the story stands as an important warning against the kind of agenda-driven, outrage-mongering clickbait that unfortunately thrives in the world of online journalism.

But no less noteworthy was the news cycle that followed the initial flawed coverage, which featured a host of ideologically-motivated partisans doubling down on their initial assumption, digging for new information to justify it, and reassuring themselves that they were right all along. Sandmann and his MAGA hat-wearing friends had identified themselves as members of Team Trump, and thus the national shaming they endured was deserved, this thinking went. Indeed, those who had defended the boys by disputing some aspects of the encounter—including me, in an article for Reason that changed many people's minds about what had happened—were engaged in "gaslighting": trying to make people think that something they saw hadn't really happened.

Sandmann's subsequent lawsuits have kept the Covington-sympathetic public focused on several of the outlets that misreported the initial story: CNN, The Washington Post, and others. Indeed, these publications certainly deserve criticism, independent of the merits of the individual lawsuits. But these outlets' Covington-related sins pale in comparison to those who continued to malign the teens long after the additional video footage was available.

It's important to recall that the mainstream media's textbook rush-to-judgment about the Covington teens relied on two key pieces of faulty evidence. The first was the misleading video clip, which did not contain important context about what had happened immediately before the encounter between Sandmann and Phillips.

The second was Phillips' brazenly inaccurate statements to the press: He claimed that he had intervened to protect the third group, the Black Hebrew Israelites, from the "predatory" boys, even though the boys were not threatening anyone. He also claimed he had heard a "build the wall" chant, even though no evidence of this has emerged in any of the additional footage. Phillips, it turned out, was a false witness: an on-the-ground source whose information seemed credible, but wasn't. (In fact, Phillips is a charlatan with a long history of allowing the media to misrepresent him as a Vietnam War veteran, even though he never served abroad or saw combat.)

Since journalism in the modern era moves at a rapid pace, irrespective of the need to double- and triple-check facts, these two pieces of evidence were sufficient to launch dozens of stories in mainstream press that essentially indicted Covington's students as racists. These stories employed some cautious language—allegedly, seemingly, etc.—and attributed the stronger statements to Phillips, which provided a veneer of objectivity, even though readers were given little reason to think there might be more to the story.

A truly discerning reader would have wondered why a trivial encounter that involved no one of significance and resulted in zero injuries or property damage was worthy of so much coverage at all. But no matter: The actions of Sandmann and his friends, as described by the media, generated apoplectic denunciation by conservatives, liberals, Catholics, celebrities, politicians, and virtually everyone else. Even ideological allies of the boys, who had come to Washington, D.C., to attend the anti-abortion March for Life rally, were quick to condemn them.

In hindsight, the slanted nature of the coverage is almost comical. The Detroit Free Press described the video as depicting "Phillips peacefully drumming and singing, while surrounded by a hostile crowd" and suggested that this "illustrates the nation's political and racial tensions." The Daily Beast's story was filed under "AWFUL" and described the video as "disturbing." Its first several paragraphs quote directly from Phillips. NPR asserted that the boys had mocked the Native American man. In story after story, news outlets claimed the Covington kids had shouted "build the wall." Again, the sole source of this claim was Phillips.

The news stories, at least, were edited; Twitter is not. Thus the reaction on social media was even more unhinged. Reza Aslan, a scholar and television pundit on CNN, tweeted that Sandmann had a "punchable" face. His CNN colleague Bakari Sellers agreed. BuzzFeed's Anne Petersen tweeted that Sandmann's face reminded her of Brett Kavanaugh's—and this wasn't intended as a compliment.Vulture writer Erik Abriss tweeted that he wanted the kids and their parents to die. Kathy Griffin said the high schoolers ought to be doxxed. As a USA Today retrospective noted, "comedian Patton Oswalt called the students in the video 'bland, frightened, forgettable kids who'll grow up to be bland, frightened, forgotten adult wastes.'…Writer Michael Green, referring to Sandmann's apparent smirking at the Native American man, wrote: 'A face like that never changes. This image will define his life. No one need ever forgive him.'…Huffington Post reporter Christopher Mathias explicitly compared the students to violent segregationists."

Within 48 hours, the truth had emerged. A longer video, which showed the Covington boys' prior harassment at the hands of the Black Hebrew Israelites, made it clear that the kids had not directed racist invectives at Phillips' crowd—they were cheering in order to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites. Phillips then entered the teens' midst, drumming and chanting at them. Some thought he was joining their cheer, a small few made inappropriate tomahawk gestures, while others seemed confused or even wary—correctly wary, since Phillips and his entourage had not come in good faith.

I wrote about the additional footage, and, over time, many commentators backpedaled. The mainstream media did as well. Case in point: The New York Times went from "Viral Video Shows Boys in 'Make America Great Again' Hats Surrounding Native Elder" to "Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video of Native American Man and Catholic Students."

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.

Then there was another video clip—this one just eight seconds long—that was widely cited as evidence that perhaps the Covington boys were up to no good after all. It allegedly depicted a separate incident near the Lincoln Memorial, involving a group of boys who may or may not be students from Covington. The appear to yell something—perhaps "MAGA"—at a passing girl. It's not clear what prompted this. It's not clear if the girl initiated a conversation with the boys. It's not clear if they meant to harass her. It's not even clear that these boys are the same ones who encountered Phillips. It's an eight-second video.

For some reason, Vox's Emily Stewart embedded the short clip in her January 24 piece about Covington. This isn't even the most astonishing failing of the piece: She also uncritically cited Phillips throughout.

"Phillips told the Post that even before the confrontation, he and other Native American activists had issues with the students during the day," wrote Stewart. "And it wasn't just him and the Hebrew Israelites—a video surfaced on Twitter purporting to show the Covington boys harassing a group of girls as they walked by."

Stewart's piece is shockingly devoid of pushback, failing to note that Phillips' account was misleading—even though the piece was written four days after his narrative had fallen apart. She made note of my piece, and a few others from those in the Fox News orbit, but her bolded points were "We're probably never going to know exactly what happened on the Lincoln Memorial steps" and "These kids still don't look great."

On the latter point, she linked to a piece by Slate's Ruth Graham, who wrote, "There's no mistaking the core dynamics of the encounter: Sandmann smugly grins in Phillips's face and declines to step backward, and he's backed by dozens of boisterous teens who are jeering and mocking the much smaller group of Native marchers."

In a previous piece, she had referred to Sandmann's face as "punchable and untouchable." Her new piece contained no apology—indeed, she hardly changed her mind about him at all.

"The new facts about this small encounter this weekend in Washington are important, and worth clarifying," wrote Graham. "But they don't change the larger story, the one that caused so many people to react so viscerally to the narrative's first, and simpler, draft."

The most obnoxious entry in this series was penned by Deadspin's Laura Wagner, who actually attempted to shame those who had changed their mind about the Covington kids in the face of new evidence. "Nothing about the video showing the offensive language of Black Israelites changes how upsetting it was to see the Covington students, and Sandmann in particular, stare at Phillips with such contempt," wrote Wagner. "I don't see how you could watch this and think otherwise unless you're willing to gaslight yourself, and others, in the service of granting undeserved sympathy to the privileged."

That's right—people who were sorry for making a snap judgment and condemning a teenager for not smiling the right way while caught in a confusing moment with a bad-faith interloper were "granting undeserved sympathy to the privileged." (I responded to Wagner's piece shortly after it was first published.)

One year after the Covington debacle, it's actually the gratuitous cruelty of the Laura Wagners and Ruth Grahams that sticks out to me as worthy of ongoing criticism—far more than the significantly flawed but at least summarily retracted news articles by the likes of The Washington Post and CNN. Covington is a story about a viral-outrage-addicted media succumbing to a bad impulse and make horrible mistakes. But as the better-known news outlets continue to garner the lion's share of the opprobrium, it's important to remember that there are plenty of commentary writers who continue to think—wrongfully, and shamefully—that the media had it basically right the first time.

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  1. Journalists and pundits who frantically doubled down on their initial bad takes deserve more criticism.

    I hope you lay off the criticism of your colleague, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, on social occasions.

  2. Nope. You media whores are not getting out of this. You are not going to be able to say that you deserve more criticism but everything can go back to ‘normal’.

    More and more Americans know that the MSM are Propagandists for Lefties. unreason is too but most people dont give a shit about the Useful Idiots that run and write for unreason.

    As election season gets into full swing, voters will remember this and what Lefties do every election cycle – Propagandists acts contrite and mainstream as if they are not raging Lefties who hate this Constitutional Democratic Republic.

    1. To be sure.

    2. Is it even possible for Reason to publish an article you won’t criticize? Why do you even waste your time here?

      1. Perhaps he remembers the good ole’ days before the staff at Reason began to suffer TDS.

        Pepperidge Farm remembers, as do I.

      2. LUB IT OR LEEB IT!

        FREE MINDS BABY!

        1. Shut up Hihn.

      3. Can’t speak for him, but it’s possible IMO.

        Just, given past behavior, I’d say it’s highly unlikely.

        None of this is unearned.

    3. We’ve agreed on much in the past, you seem more hostile these days, despite all kinds of evidence that this country is going in the right direction.

      This was the only outlet that gave those kids a fair shake. Robby was the one who broke the story nationally. Granted all he did was basic journalism, but that’s a lot to ask for these days. Granted, Robby also stuck up for CNN, but journos gonna journo.

      And while I’m no fan of leftist policy, if you truly hate leftists, you should find a lot of joy in the smearing of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard by the corporate press. Two people who identify problems well but have horrible solutions.

      The enemy of your enemy could be your friend. Perhaps you’d find some comfort and positivity in watching these leftists take down the DNC and their corporate media buddies? Watching Tulsi shit on the establishment has been my favorite part of the primary.

      1. “ the smearing of Bernie Sanders”

        Yeah, like how the media keeps giving him and his cultists endless free passes for their violence, incitement and outright fucking Stalinism. Poor Bernie.

        “identify problems well”

        “DA SERFS HAVE TOO MANY DERODORANTS AND NOW ENUFF TAXES!!!111”

        “The enemy of your enemy could be your friend.”

        Ah, yes. I remember the influx of Bernouts trying to invade Libertarian pages after he kissed Hillary’s ring and bowed out(as he, a perpetual party creature, was always meant to) and trying to scream that the only way they’d ever support us was to fundamentally change our principals and adopts socialist totalitarianism, because they stamped their foot and SAID so,

      2. Careful. You are about this close [] to being called a leftist.

        1. You’re called a leftist because you agree with only leftists, push the majority of their policies, and only attack the right. You are also pro paternalism.

          1. You nailed it. Plus he’s pro pedophile.

      3. I like some of what Tulsi says. I like that she can criticize her own party. She’s the most authentic one running right now(on the Democrat side). I’m not a fan of Trump, at least, as a person. He concerns me as our president, but, I don’t think he’s the worst.

        1. Yang is a very close second = She’s the most authentic one running right now(on the Democrat side).

    4. Propaganda is reverse engineered psychosis.

      When an issue reaches people’s irrational emotions, the facts don’t matter to them. They are ripe to be fed misinformation the more repeated and the more emotional the better. Their psychosis achieves the nefarious agenda.

      Propaganda works best for anyone with the power to broadcast it repeatedly. Not necessarily elected power.

      You tried to associate propaganda with those nasty lefties. It might work on those who have become emotional and irrational. The fact that WMD in Iraq was righty propaganda probably won’t even matter to them.

      1. Or like the people who use propaganda to rewrite history as if the holocaust never happened.

        1. Close but no cigar.

          There is ZERO physical evidence of that false narrative. Only contradicting paid testimony and coerced confessions. The sharing of physical evidence that refutes the narrative is a crime in nations where allegedly occurred.

          Which story sounds like it’s based on propaganda?

    5. “and pundits who frantically doubled down on their initial bad takes deserve more criticism.’ They deserve more than criticism. I say they deserve a nice big lawsuit for damages.

      1. And they have gotten their lawsuits, and are now being forced to pay.

  3. Smiling and not stepping back is always my fall back move to assholes.

    1. Its the go to move when you are in bad company works with loose dogs and stupid people who like to harrass. I learned this has a youth but it still applies to this day even in my 50’s I had to use it just last December in a bar with a few looking to intimidate people into an altercation

    2. Yeah, seems like the kid reacted about as well as could be expected. Don’t be an asshole, but don’t let assholes push you around either.

    3. #SmilingWhileWhite

      The ruling class doesn’t like it when young white men get uppity and won’t reflexively defer to the superior races.

  4. The actions of Sandmann and his friends, as described by the media, generated apoplectic denunciation by conservatives, liberals, Catholics, celebrities, politicians, and virtually everyone else.

    Disappointing to see “conservatives” only represented by a link to NR’s apology/retraction of a blog post. There were a lot more of them. Would have liked to see “libertarians” in there too.

    1. Robby notably left out his former colleague Balko’s reaction to this, which is the point that Radley Nohair finally went off the deep end into complete idiocy.

      1. He couldn’t find it in him to come close to walking back his wholly incorrect take. For so many people that red hat is a Rubicon.

        1. Robby’s examples aside, there were actually plenty of leftists who said, “Shit, I was completely wrong about this” after the full video came out. Balko having to resort to the passive voice in that tweet is as clear an indication of surrender that you’ll ever see out of the far left these days.

      2. I don’t think Robby and Balko had any overlap at Reason. Also, does anyone give a fuck about Radley Balko anymore?

        1. There was no overlap, and only as a high profilr “writer for a libertarian magazine” does not mean that the writer need be any kind of libertarian.

          1. “high profile example that”

  5. There are issues of freedom of the press here, but it might be important to see the press as a business, making money as well. If a doctor writes 200mg when he meant 20mg, or the guy at the tire shop forgets to tighten the lug nuts, you can get compensation for the consequences of their errors.
    A writer for any publication is paid for the work she creates. That writer should be held accountable for grossly shoddy product, just as other occupations are. Sue for negligence.

    1. I agree. I think we ought to make journalists financially liable for what they write.

      1. Libel is a thing.
        It would be nice if their employers would impose some consequences too, though.

    2. Isn’t that what libel laws are for? If you knew better or should have known better then your victim can sue you in civil court.

      1. There is the bar of the writer having animus against the plaintiff and knowledge that what they wrote they knew at the time to be false. Much harder to prove than simple incompetence.

        1. Not if we use the same level of ‘evidence’ as is used in hate crime trials. Any and every thing ever said, written or thought, can be dredged up and used to ‘prove’ hatred. So too with all past actions by a writer, and the editors involved in the publication stream.
          ALL we need is one judge with balls enough to say “this is the new and correct level of proof, no longer whatever ‘malice’ means”

        2. “Punchable face” “woodchipper” “never forgiven” are evidence of, ….indifference?

      2. Provided the plaintiff hurdle a couple of extra judge-made obstacles first: was the defendant a public figure or did the story relate to a matter of public interest? Then actual malice needs to be shown, not just that the writer was wrong, or even negligently wrong. And so on.

        Maybe ‘the press’ should have a chilling effect placed upon them?

        1. Or I could just scroll down in the thread, but what fun would that be?

    3. You make the common progressive assumption that errors are identifiable

      The correct action is to inculcate a healthy contempt for the media and intellectuals in the American people so that it doesn’t matter what they say. Fortunately, both the media and intellectuals seem to be doing a good job at that themselves.

    4. Seems like it’s their customers, not their targets, who would have standing to sue for that. They didn’t have any agreement to provide any service or good to the students they slandered.

    5. It’s more important to see a free and honest press as a vital institution to a free society, and how the Long March Through the Institutions has transformed it and other such vital institutions into propaganda organs for the ruling class.

  6. A clinger whining about ‘outrage-driven’ media?

    1. Just because that kid from Covington made it to high school and you quit school after flunking 8th grade special ed is no reason to hate him Rev. Being envious of others isn’t going to change your situation or make your life less of a failure. Be better than that.

      1. LOL

        Actually, Rev. Kirkland graduated from Harvard. He’s basically stated this many times. Because why would he constantly namedrop a school unless he actually went there?

        1. Getting hired for two weeks once to clean the bathrooms is not “graduating from Harvard” no matter what he claims. That said, he is actually dumb enough and ill informed enough to make a believable Harvard graduate. The kind of ignorance that comes with a degree from there is hard to fake. But, the Rev clearly lacks the sort of social skills and mental stability to graduate from anywhere.

          1. Nah. He’s legit.

            I bet his SAT score was even higher than the absolutely fantastic 1270 / 1600 that got David Hogg admitted.

          2. Why do you assume he was hired? There could be other reasons for his presence.

            1. Joe Pesci on “With Honors”. Also, Moira Kelly was one of the most underrated sexy actresses of the late 1990s. I definitely wouldn’t kick her out bed for eating crackers.

              1. Indeed. She looked pretty Wearing that ice skating outfit in ‘The Cutting Edge’.

                1. Yes. That movie was when I first developed my crush on her. But of course I just watched it for the hockey.

          3. By ‘cleaned the bathroom’ are you sure you don’t mean ‘attended a gloryhole’, and ‘licked the excess loads off the floor’?

            After all, this IS Arty we’re discussing here.

            1. Is he competent enough, or specifically skilled enough, to believe there would be any loads at all?

        2. “Actually, Rev. Kirkland graduated from Harvard. He’s basically stated this many times. “

          Nobody cares about the lies you tell yourself across your many names.

        3. If Kirkland actually had gone to Harvard, he’d not think that it is something to brag about.

          On the other hand, he’s very good at emulating the kind of arrogance that Harvard graduates tend to have.

          1. True. People with legitimate credentials and even a glimmer of class very rarely mention their pedigrees.

      2. I don’t understand why you even respond to him.

      3. Hey, the 8th grade was the best three years of that asshole bigot’s life!

    2. It always cheers me up to see the Reverend gnawing the bones of his impotent rage.

  7. I wish we had ethical journalists in this country. Unfortunately there aren’t any good people that go into the profession these days.

    1. An ethical journalist would be wise to avoid this country if they want to stay out of prison.

  8. The thing that has destroyed the media is NYT v. Sullivan and the public figure doctrine. Before Sullivan, the media had to be sure that what they said was correct or they risked being sued. After Sullivan, as long as they were talking about a “public figure” the media only had to not know that what they were saying was a lie. It didn’t matter if what they were saying was true as long as they didn’t know it was untrue. Thanks to Sullivan not knowing the facts and saying what the reporter hoped were the facts became good enough.

    This caused a general rot in the media as a whole. Freed of having to ensure that what they were saying was true, over a few decades the media stopped caring if what they said was true. The Covington case just shows that the rot has become so pervasive that the media forgot the standard didn’t apply to ordinary people.

    If you care about the media and want a media that is trusted and reports the truth, you should want Sullivan and the public figure doctrine overturned.

    1. Wait, so journalists have a major incentive to be willfully ignorant of the facts regarding any issue they report on? What could possibly go wrong?

      1. The less they know, the less likely they are to be held responsible for a slander. That literally is the standard.

    2. NYT v. Sullivan was a terrible holding. There is no Constitutional justification for holding commercial news organizations to a different standard than all others under the First Amendment. Freedom of the Press does not mean what leftists think it means.

      1. It was a perfect example of bad facts making bad law. The Alabama Courts had totally misapplied state libel law and given a totally unreasonable judgment given the facts. The problem is that there is an older doctrine known as the Erie Doctrine that says federal courts cannot overrule state court interpretations of state law. So the Supreme Court couldn’t do the obvious and just rule the Alabama Court’s opinion contrary to state law, which it was. But it didn’t want to let the verdict stand and bankrupt the sacred New York Times. So, they invented the public figure doctrine out of thin air and overruled the verdict on 1st Amendment grounds and effectively gutted state slander and libel law.

    3. So, basically, Sullivan is qualified immunity for the press. No wonder you never see the MSM criticize it.

    4. Consider this. Can you think of any anonymous source that lied to the MSM to spread false allegations? So many stories quote anonymous sources with what we now know is false information.

      Given the MSM doesn’t out these liars shows you they’re in on it, and don’t care about their reputations. A real journalist would tell us who lied to him and used him to smear their political opposition. That they don’t, means they just want more anonymous lies to publish.

    5. Sandman shouldn’t count as a public figure, of course, but the media arguably gets to skirt this by making someone a public figure in the act of libeling them. It’s messed up.

  9. The distinction between Laura Wagner and the WAPO isn’t that great. Institutions have people specifically trying to minimize their liability and protect their reputation. But Wapo’s instinct was exactly the same as Wagner’s and except in the tiny number of circumstances with potential liability they will act exactly the same.

  10. Rule of Thumb:
    “As described by the media” isn’t nearly proof enough to “generate apoplectic denunciation.” Or even to get worked up.

  11. People don’t back down on “facts” that fit their belief system, even when proven false. This is actually a scientifically studied area of cognition. Politics is nothing if not a belief system.

    I’ll note that people believing the initial story even when it is quickly disproved is quite common. Remember the guy who ate someone’s face because he was high on bath salts? Everyone still uses the “bath salts” reference because of that incident. The one that never happened. The guy was not high on anything at all. No drugs whatsoever in his system. Just a crazy dude doing crazy dude things. Yet sitcoms and late night comedians still use that as a punchline.

    Sandman is a permanent meme, despite the obvious nature of the encounter. People believed it because they wanted to believe it. A single moment’s reflection would have made one realize that the iconic image shows someone beating a drum in another person’s face. The question of who the aggressor is is pretty clear when that observation comes to the front. None of it matters. People will believe things that confirm their belief system. All the more so if that belief system is not based on facts in the first place.

    1. The narrative must endure. Remember “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman?

      1. Yeah. He killed a cute, little 12 year old boy for wearing a hoodie and buying skittles.

        1. Well, in his defense, it was actually the evil gun that jumped out and killed the kid. (And there is still a rumor that they were assault skittles)

        2. He basically did though. Well he shot the kid because he thought he could start an altercation with him and nothing would happen. But then that little kid started beating his ass, he had to assert his dominance and fucking kill a child. Are you down with the NAP or not? Who started that altercation? Zimmerman did.

          His behavior since the incident has only strengthened the case that he is a major piece of human shit. Zimmerman is not the hill you want to die on.

          1. And your evidence for your claim as to who started the altercation is . . .

            Oh, that’s right, there is none. No witnesses, no video, and no forensic evidence. Just bald, unsupported assertion that Zimmerman must be guilty of a crime because he’s the wrong color and has had other run-ins with the law.

          2. He shot the kid who was slamming his head against the curb. Not to exert dominance. You complain above about being called a leftist and then you parrot leftist talking points. The ER report supports Zimmerman’s assertion that his head was being repeatedly slammed into the concrete.

            1. Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend Rachel Jeantel testified at the trial and in interview on the Piers Morgan show.
              She and Martin talked on the phone for about a minute as he walked after he ran away from Zimmerman and lost sight of Zimmerman.
              Martin was about to enter the Brandy Green house where he was staying when Jeantel and Martin decided the man was a homosexual who deserved to have his ass whooped. So Trayvon went back, sought Zimmerman out, and jumped him to impress his girl friend.
              Bottomline: Trayvon and Jeantel conspired a homophobic hate attack that backfired big time.

              1. Yes. Evidence be damned we have to condemn Zimmerman noatter what the facts are.

          3. Yeah, let’s argue about this some more.

          4. Goddamn you’re an ignorant cunt. ‘Little Trayvon’ outweighed Zimmerman by about 25 pounds and stood three inches taller. He wasn’t a little kid.

            You really are just the dumbest progtard.

            1. Actually, that was the perfect illustration of my point. The made up version survives, despite all of the intense scrutiny, eyewitness testimony, photographs of a no-longer cute and unthreatening 12 year old Trayvon, but a troubled and violent teen. He shall forever be what the propaganda machine claimed.

              1. Hands up, don’t shoot.

  12. How dare anyone besmirch the great nonclinger activist Nathan Philips! Hasn’t he already suffered enough? He was assaulted on a Michigan campus by frat boys in native American clothing, and then while it was being investigated the entire student body covered it up. Clearly the covington kids set this up so they could try and discredit Philips just like the clingers in Michigan. All of you clingers trying to defend thes awful students should be ashamed of your self… The boot of you better will be stomping on you neck?

    1. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Isn’t it best to just leave the trolls alone?

      1. Others mention that satire is a good way to point out hypocrisy.

        1. I’m just glad we found someone to replace Kirkland

    2. Could you please cite references to the incident you mention in Michigan?

      Thank you

  13. For me, the true bad actor in this was Savannah Guthrie of NBC news. She interviewed Phillips in a very credulous and supportive way. In that interview, he told several whoppers in his usual arsenal and gave a narrative about walking to the Lincoln Memorial that had already been pointed out as whoppers in articles like the one Robby wrote here.

    She then interviewed Sandman – long after the video proving that the entire left-narrative was a lie was public and well analyzed. She pressed him to apologize. She pressed him to explain what he did wrong and to explain what he wished he had done differently. It was a complete ambush, based entirely on lies that Guthrie had to know were lies.

    Then she interviews Phillips again…. and explains away his earlier lies about his Vietnam service and about his actions…. she doesn’t even make him explain it himself. She does it for him, and then proceeds to give him a platform to condemn Sandman while playing the victim and “being the bigger person”.

    It was something out of a Soviet show trial – Pravda coming in to explain the traitor to the party’s crimes.

    1. Yep. Guthrie is a true villain, and part of the fake news cabal. I mean that with all seriousness.

        1. No, that would make her a ‘victim.’

          Better that she stand as is – a testament to the rot of journalism and total lack of self policing that puts paid to the lie that they are a profession.

          Unless and until they openly repudiate her they are her.

  14. Showing, once again, that “privilege” is shown to be a racist, classist concept that prejudges people based on their group characteristics. Sandman and the rest of the Covington students must be in the wrong because they are white and apparently middle to upper middle class. Philips is Native American so he is to believed, and any facts getting in the way if that prejudicial judgement causes psychological pain.

  15. This is a good article and Robby deserves a back pat for it.

    1. Indeed. It’s a good chronicle of not just shoddy reporting, but the aggressive shoddy reporting that went far beyond just flubbing a few facts and instead pushed a preferred narrative and outcome.

    2. Robby is one of the better journalists here. Sack Suderman and let Fruit Sushi on the Reazun podcasts.

  16. You can’t let facts get in the way of the narrative.

    1. Yeah, but you aren’t doing it right. Here’s how you do it.

      To be sure, Robbie has written some articles with too much equivocation in the past. But this is a full-throated critique of the continuing media narrative against Sandman and I congratulate him!

  17. “…The[y] appear to yell something—perhaps “MAGA”—at a passing girl…”

    Well, there you have it! Sandman is racist!

    1. How is shouting out political slogans on a visit to DC for a political rally harassment anyway?

  18. Boy, if I didn’t know any better i’d Say all these lawsuits at CNN and the NYTimes— not to mention Elizabeth Warren— were attempts to silence speech. And i’m For free speech and a free press. Are you guys?

    1. That depends…do defamation laws in general violate freedom of speech and of the press? Or only when they’re used against the legacy media?

      1. It depends on the political persuasion of the litigant.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firing_of_Shirley_Sherrod

        1. The exception that proves the case? And she was just as badly smeared as the Convington kids and deserves equal ability to redress her grievances, just if you were curious.

        2. Oh, look! Shitstain managed to find one (1) case where a lefty got tossed. And then:
          ” The NAACP and White House officials then apologized for their earlier criticisms, and United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack apologized for the firing and offered Sherrod a new position.”

          Left out that part didn’t you, shitstain?

    2. “…And i’m For free speech and a free press…”

      Lefty shitstains are all for a free press, so long as the lies reflect their narrative.

      1. No he isn’t.
        Two words: Citizens United

    3. So, if you are smeared, unjustly as in this case, you have no recourse but to let your life get ruined? Free speech doesn’t mean you can’t be held liable for the harm your misconduct causes.

    4. Most people are for you choking on the contents of a giant industrial sized bag of rotting dicks.

    5. I’m 100% for consequence-free speech. Guess who’s a pedophile?

    6. Libel laws are not new. Freedom of speech is a concept meant to protect individuals and private organizations like the press from retribution by the State. It was never intended to protect an individual or organization from recovery by someone they damaged through spreading of malicious falsehoods.

  19. BuzzFeed’s Anne Petersen tweeted that Sandmann’s face reminded her of Brett Kavanaugh’s

    Kavanaugh and MAGA hats are largely why this happened. We learned from his confirmation hearing that Catholic schoolboys are the worst sort of monsters.

    1. I think you are onto something there.

  20. These Covington Catholic Tomahawk choppers are such sensitive lily-White snowflakes.

    1. Yet they are not the ones clutching at pearls.

    2. Yes,because being upset when you are publicly humiliated and possibly having your life ruined because of a lie is being a sensitive snowflake! What the literal fuck I mean you don’t make sense on a good day but that has got to be the epitomy of stupid takes. What should they have done, taken the ass ramming without lube like a man and sucked it up?

      1. This kind of comment makes me think the Rev is really a Reason supported troll, hired to goose the clicks, rather than an actual human with a bit of grey matter.

    3. They weren’t the ones inciting their cult of psychopathic snowflakes to threaten to murder children for standing awkwardly while some Indian asshole banged a drum in their face.

    4. And you’re a useless retarded twat that still embarrasses its parents for having spawned you.

  21. Since journalism in the modern era moves at a rapid pace, irrespective of the need to double- and triple-check facts

    You’re giving them way too much credit.

    It has nothing to do with the pace or modernity, and everything to do with the agenda. The New York Times didn’t run a total fabrication by Andrew Rosenthal about President Bush being astonished by a grocery scanner on the front page in February 1992 because they didn’t have time to check sources, and certainly not because social media put time pressure on them. The NYT ran that story because they are openly-lying propagandist scum deliberately misinforming the American people, and that’s why the NYT stuck with that story even when video of the event completely contradicted them.

    And that’s also why so many in the press took this complete non-story (“Busybody claims teenage boys disrespected him”) and gave it so much play; they’re openly-lying propagandist scum deliberately misinforming the American people. The truth was completely irrelevant to them when it ran, and is why they stuck with the story even when video of the event completely contradicted them.

    As for the rest of the press, you can assess their actual dedication to truth by seeing whether they continue to treat the openly-lying propagandist scum as pariahs to be shunned, or as fellow members in good standing of the press. Those that choose the latter course care nothing for truth itself; they just think their propaganda is more credible if they disavow lies the general public can catch them in.

    1. I have a friend who live in Iran in the 70s. He told me a while back that as bad as the media is here it isn’t as bad as it was Iran because it isn’t run by the state. I disagreed. It is worse here. At least in the Shah’s Iran everyone knew the media was run by the state and discounted what it said accordingly. Here, the media is just as dishonest only since it is not formally state run many people actually believe it and don’t realize how dishonest it is.

      1. To paraphrase Dave Barry – in the Soviet Union, they could discount the media because it always lied. In the United States, there will sometimes be a true story amid the lies, but you can’t be sure which is which.

        1. And they don’t even have to lie (which just makes them look more stupid and craven when they do shit like this). If you report the right facts in the right way you can keep the narrative going just fine and rarely have to actually lie. That’s what good dishonest reporters do. You need to make the facts serve the narrative, not create false ones that are convenient to your narrative.

    2. You’re giving them way too much credit.

      The Weigel career path requires these errors.

  22. BuzzFeed’s Anne Petersen tweeted that Sandmann’s face reminded her of Brett Kavanaugh’s

    Your fist mistake was reading BuzzFeed.

  23. I don’t think this can be neatly separated into initial story and doubling down. It was all part of the same process. The initial story was bad, the doubling down was bad, it was a “perfect storm” of badness from beginning to…I won’t say end because litigation is ongoing.

  24. Since this story how many Covington kids have killed Jews? Zero. The same cannot be said about the members of the Black Israelites.

    1. Those attacks were the result of white supremacy in the era of Trump. I have this on good authority from NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS…..

      1. Talib did try to pin the particular murder on white supremacy, but she had to quickly delete her tweet.

    2. You can’t prove they haven’t killed any Jews. They are *Roman* Catholics after all.

      1. A swing and a miss. Get back in the box and try again Skippy.

  25. CNN is an odious organization.

    As for the larger media, it’s odious as well.

    Even if there was some truth to the initial narrative (and there was none), the media’s bloodthirsty attacks on these boys were obscene. Nobody, especially minors, should be assaulted in that way. Everybody can be guilty of less than perfect behavior at times without deserving widespread public scorn.

    1. That’s a good point too. Even if they were being assholes, they were high school kids. Calling for them to be punched and doxxed and tarring them with horrible labels is inappropriate in any case.

  26. Just think of how bad Reason’s Iranian Useful Idiocy and impeachment misrepresentation are going to look this time next year.

  27. As an aside, since it was mentioned, the use of ridiculous terms like “gas lighting” are just a way of attacking the messenger when you are unable to intelligently debate the message.

    Another version of this strategy is accusing somebody of using a “dog whistle” and being racist when they express a completely non racial position. This is used commonly to attack anybody who opposes illegal immigration, affirmative action, etc.

    Anybody who uses these terms is mentally and/or morally deficient.

    1. Which is, of course, just gaslighting people who say gaslighting. And that, obviously, is just another racist dog whistle.

    2. Don’t forget “false equivalence”, with no explanation of how it’s false.

  28. It’s interesting that Robby forgets to mention that CNN just settled with Sandmann for an undisclosed sum (supposedly $25m). Other lawsuits are still pending, these asshats are gonna pay one way or another.

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-covington-kids-revenge-one-year-later/

  29. Robby got the stupid blackface controversy… but left off the White Power sign controversy….. you see, the OK sign as well as the universal 3 sign for making a 3 pointer are actually racist White Power hand signals.

    This seems to have been made up out of whole cloth at some recent moment in order to besmirch people – I have yet to see any credible evidence that there was ever a single white supremacist using this sign before it was described as such by the good folks at the SPLC and the anti-defamation league.

    Footage of pretty much every black athlete who has played basketball in the last 20 years making the same sign has not dissuaded them. Even photos of the black kids at Covington making the same sign didn’t slow them down.

    It became so popular that they tossed the same accusations at the Naval academy after their bowl game. 11 kinds of stupid, but now we have a meme that can be weaponized, so it keeps on rolling!

    1. It was a 4chan prank that the media ran with because it fell in line with their own neurotic paranoia.

      1. How can they not understand how crazy they look?

        1. Dude, they want to censor SATIRE HUMOR because ‘people are stupid and believe it’. The left are that illiberal and insane.

          A (beloved) literary device used by all cultures throughout history.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satire

  30. What the lift fails to realize is that, by now, when I encounter a story about a supposed right winger supposedly doing something that’s supposed to be awful, my gut reaction is “The Left is full of dung…again”. They not only lie, they lie unthriftily; in ways that are almost sure to be caught out and in circumstances that will damage their cause when they are.

  31. There have been almost no real journalists in years. These media hacks lie constantly, they lie viciously, and they lie so obviously that only the damn fools who never get up from in front of the TV could possibly believe a word they say. And this fact is so obvious to everyone on the right that we’ve stopped giving them any benefit of doubt. *The doubt is gone.*

    This is why politics have become entirely hostility and disrespect. As Aristotle said, there are some people whom one cannot instruct. All the remaining lefties have put themselves beyond the reach of reasoned argument.

    1. I recently told my wife I hadn’t followed any mainstream media sources in years (she hadn’t noticed, she never has followed the news very closely). When she asked why, I said it was because EVERYTHING they put forth is lies. She doubted that and in a brief test on both local and national news programs (CNN and ABC) I was able to demonstrate either blatant falsehood or odious slant in every single story. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

      Now, the local news is mostly fearmongering for ratings and shit rather than promoting the woke, but the amount of useful information in local news is near zero.

  32. Sandmann is a kid with dental issues. Hence the odd smirk.

    1. How do you define a smirk? How does one distinguish it from an ordinary smile? Is it just a smile on someone you hate?

  33. BTW, Phillips is wearing glasses; cultural appropriation…

  34. Did Robbie admit to sandbagging Sandmann, or does he just have sentence construction issues? “Indeed, those who had defended the boys by disputing some aspects of the encounter—including me, in an article for Reason that changed many people’s minds about what had happened—were engaged in “gaslighting”: trying to make people think that something they saw hadn’t really happened.”

    1. *gaslighting Sandmann not sandbagging him. I got carried away with the sand verbiage.

      1. No, he is describing what some people accused Robby and other less insane journalists of doing. It could have been better constructed, but all of that still falls under “the thinking went”.

        1. Better than gasbagging him, I suppose.

  35. This is precisely what you did with Kavanaugh, so spare us the Damascene conversion.

    1. I thought his reporting on the Kavanaugh debacle was pretty good overall. Maybe a bit too credulous in the beginning.

      1. Was it him who said ‘compelling evidence’?

        1. The phrase I recall is “credible accusation”. Then everyone argues about what “credible” means.

  36. Everyone is punchable in this sad, sordid, stupid dereliction of journalistic responsibility and integrity – except the Covington boys.

    Know who I’d grab by the scruff and make squeal like a pig for his cowardly lunatic rantings? Michael Rappaport that piece of shit. Next thing I know, he’s laughing it up doing segment on Adam Schein segments for Mad Dog sports. Good call there Adam. Said a lot about you.

    If Michael was talking about MY son that way, he’d get a knock on the door from me.

    None of these assholes apologized for their abhorrent and ignorant behaviour rooted in faux-righteous bull shit.

    They can all fuck off.

    1. Make that ‘doing podcast segments’

  37. Let’s see how Sandmann does in his defamation cases. So far, CNN settled. It remains to be seen if the settlement is sufficiently large to change behavior, deter future malign behavior.

    I personally hope he prevails against all of them, particularly NYT and WaPo.

    1. I hope he squeezed them for enough money to make them at least tone things down ever so slightly. Lord knows they won’t stop lying entirely, but even a modest pullback would be better than nothing.

  38. The biggest hat tip has to go to whoever filmed – and uploaded – video of the Black Hebrew racists; that immediately flipped the script. The second hat tip should go to Don Shipley, who utterly destroyed Chief Refrigerator Ranger’s lies about service in Vietnam. Third and finally, the Covington boys’ lawyer deserves a nod. Obviously he’s profiting from the case, but opposing the media and blabbering class is costly in social & economic terms and far from an easy victory.

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  40. This is a good piece. I followed this incident obsessively as it unfolded. It should be dissected relentlessly to see what we can learn about ourselves. One thing that I think deserves further discussion is the Ostrichism that can be revealed. You talk about some in the media who doubled down even in the face of overwhelming evidence because the false narrative sort of shined a light on what they believe to be the true narrative of America. But what about normal people who caught wind of this in their Facebook feeds and never followed it to the end? There are people in my feeds right now who still believe it unfolded as first reported. They also still think Jussie Smollett is telling the truth, or Brett Kavanaugh is a serial rapist.

  41. Good lord, Reason must be running out of content.

    That would be a positive if true.

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