Covington kids behavior praised as ‘laudatory’ when investigators find no proof of ‘racist or offensive’ actions

Neetu Chandak, DCNF

YouTube screengrab


The Covington Catholic High School boys did not instigate the viral encounter with American Indian activist Nathan Phillips, according to investigation results released Wednesday.

An initial video made it seem like the boys donning Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats were taunting Phillips, who banged a drum and chanted following the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18. A full version of the video also shows the Black Hebrew Israelites insulting the group before Phillips approached.


Investigators could not find proof of students making racist comments to Phillips, but the report acknowledged students performing “tomahawk chops” to the beat of drums, although it was unclear if this was considered racist or offensive.

Findings from the report prepared by Greater Cincinnati Investigation, Inc. (GCI) and shared by Fox 19 included:

  • No proof the Covington Catholic boys yelled “Build a Wall.”
  • No proof the Covington Catholic boys made racist statements to Phillips or his group.
  • No proof the Covington Catholic boys made racist comments to the Black Hebrew Israelites.
  • Some Covington Catholic boys did “tomahawk chops” to the drum beat and some students chanted with Phillips.
  • Investigators observed inconsistencies with Phillips’s public statements.

Investigators were unable to interview Phillips or student Nick Sandmann in person, so they relied on students’ written accounts.

“The statements we obtained from students and chaperones are remarkably consistent,” the report said.

CGI hired four licensed investigators who worked 240 hours, interviewed 43 students and 16 chaperones and sifted through 50 hours of videos on YouTube, news networks and social media.

Bishop of Covington Roger Foys sent a letter Monday informing parents about the investigation’s conclusion, according to Fox 19.

“The immediate world-wide reaction to the initial video led almost everyone to believe that our students had initiated the incident and the perception of those few minutes of video became reality,” Foys wrote. “In truth, taking everything into account, our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening. Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory.”

The Diocese of Covington previously apologized to Phillips before full video footage surfaced. Foys said the diocese was “bullied and pressured into making a statement,” but eventually apologized to the boys.


The Diocese of Covington did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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