New York Times religion reporter Elizabeth Dias went to Kentucky to see how the locals were handling the unearned vitriol aimed at their sons at Covington Catholic High School, after the viral video of the infamous confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial, for Tuesday’s “A Digital-Era Frenzy Sweeps Up a School Steeped in Tradition.”
While the mainstream media has been forced to back off their more inflammatory and false charges against the boys, who were abused and confronted by both the Black Israelites and a drumming Native American activist, Dias maintained a churlish tone.
On Friday night, all anyone at Covington Catholic High School was talking about was that their star Colonels basketball team had unexpectedly lost to the rival St. Xavier Bombers, 55-45.
For the “Colonel Crazies,” as locals call them, identity is wrapped in state championship titles, and their all-male brotherhood.
But by Saturday afternoon, the Northern Kentucky school off the Dixie Highway had been ripped out of its overwhelmingly white, heavily Catholic, and largely Republican world and thrust into a national firestorm that touched seemingly every raw nerve in this polarized country --- race, President Trump and the behavior of young white men.
Videos surfaced of dozens of Covington students in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington after the March for Life, chanting as they do at games, wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and appearing to be in a standoff with an elderly Native American man.
More videos later emerged complicating the story, showing that the encounter had been preceded by African-American protesters, who identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites, shouting slurs at the students. When a man with the Hebrew Israelites shouted that the boys had just “one N-word” in their crowd, a student corrected him, “we got two of them.”
Nathan Phillips, the Native American man, said he had stepped between the students and the Hebrew Israelites to defuse the tension.
Then Dias played dumb:
Covington is famous for its community’s fierce devotion. To cheer on their classmates at sporting events, students at times paint their faces and bodies blue.
A video on the school’s YouTube channel also depicted some students with their faces and bodies painted black.
After the video emerged on social media and The New York Times contacted the diocese for comment, the school’s video was removed from YouTube. The diocese did not respond to request for comment.
If Dias was really puzzled by the concept of a “blackout” game, she could have consulted her own paper's archives, like this article from 2008, “When Spotlight Is On, the Clothes Turn Black.”
....as more details emerged, families and community members grew angry at how they were being treated.
True, and wholly justified. Still, Dias scrabbled around to somehow justify the initial accusations of racism against the boys by digging into older allegations involving...a different school?
This also is not the first time the greater Cincinnati area’s male Catholic school community has had to grapple with allegations of racism. Last winter, young men from Elder High chanted “P.F. Chang” and “‘Hey No. 2, open your eyes” at a multiracial Asian player from St. Xavier, perhaps the most prestigious of the all-male Catholic high schools in the region. An African-American player on the team was also taunted.
Dias blamed the pro-life movement for ginning up a fraught environment.
Historically, ahead of the march, the Diocese of Covington publicly prints the name of every Catholic who opposes abortion rights in a multiple-page ad for The Cincinnati Enquirer, listed by parish or school, and includes the names of minors.
A parent at a neighboring Catholic school, Michael Schwartz, recalled his frustration when his son’s school printed his name, even though his son had decided not to attend.
“The peer group pressure on these kids is enormous,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I feel the diocese should not be putting these kids in what has become potentially more contentious situations, as the inevitable protests to these ‘Right to Life’ marches increase.”
On a related note, White House correspondent Maggie Haberman’s Saturday evening tweet has not aged well:
There are dozens of students laughing and egging on the behavior. Will be interesting to see if anyone is actually expelled, as officials suggest is possible