National Review Apologizes to Covington Catholic Students

“We apologize to our readers and especially to the Covington students, who didn’t need us piling on,” the editors say

Last Updated: January 22, 2019 @ 8:51 AM

The National Review offered an apology to the students of Covington Catholic High School on Tuesday after deputy managing editor Nick Frankovich wrote that their behavior toward Omaha tribal elder Nathan Phillips had been comparable to spitting on the cross.

“In this business, all we can do is own up to mistakes when they happen. We apologize to our readers and especially to the Covington students, who didn’t need us piling on,” the magazine’s editors wrote in a piece titled “The Covington Affair.”

“Nick was operating off the best version of events he had on Saturday night, and writing as a faithful Catholic and pro-lifer who has the highest expectations of his compatriots, not as a social-justice activist,” they continued.  “As soon as better evidence emerged, we deleted the post.”

The post went on to explain how the original story had been published to an area of the website known as “The Corner,” where staffers routinely post their quicker, less filtered thoughts. “It was basically Twitter before the advent of Twitter,” they said, while adding that “The Corner’s” off the cuff nature occasionally could result in mistakes like Frankovich’s

You can read the full National Review walk-back here.

The original National Review piece came over the weekend during the height of the outrage after video surfaced of the students appearing to jeer Native Americans at the Lincoln Memorial who were in Washington D.C. for the indigenous people’s march.

“They mock a serious, frail-looking older man and gloat in their momentary role as Roman soldiers to his Christ. “‘Bullying’ is a worn-out word and doesn’t convey the full extent of the evil on display here,” wrote Frankovich in the original piece. “As for the putatively Catholic students from Covington, they might as well have just spit on the cross and got it over with.”

Frankovich was hardly alone in the over-the-top reaction. A GQ writer called on his followers to doxx the teenagers, a Vulture writer expressed his wish to see them die, and Hollywood producer tweeted a graphic image (inspired by “Fargo”) imaging the Covington students being fed into a wood chipper. 

The Frankovich piece ultimately came down without explanation Monday after longer footage from additional angles created a more nuanced impression of the situation. In a widely shared article, Reason Editor Robby Soave said the media had botched the story.

“Far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby,” wrote Soave.

“Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people.”

President Trump has also expressed his support for the students on Twitter, saying Tuesday morning that they have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be”