COVINGTON, Ky. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An independent investigation has exonerated the Covington Catholic boys.
After the controversy in January over the Covington Catholic High School students at the March for Life, Bp. Roger Foys of the Covington diocese announced an independent third-party investigation into the students' behavior. Now, the results of that investigation are public, and Bp. Foys says the investigation proves the teens from his diocese were innocent.
The bishop said in a statement Monday, "Our inquiry, conducted by a third party firm that has no connection with Covington Catholic High School or the Diocese of Covington, has demonstrated that our students did not instigate the incident that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial."
"In truth, taking everything into account, our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening," Bp. Foys said. "Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory."
While the Black Hebrew Israelites are on video cussing and saying racial epithets to the teenagers, the investigative team said in the final investigative report dated Monday that it found "no evidence that students responded with any offensive or racist statements of their own."
The only thing brought up in the report that could reflect negatively on the boys is the fact that some boys were doing the tomahawk gesture while the Native American man beat his drum.
Investigators looked into snippets of video from the March for Life that allegedly showed Covington Catholic students making a rape joke. But they found no evidence that the boys who said those things were actually from Covington Catholic; in fact, they state that there is some evidence to the contrary.
"Our investigation concludes that the individual who made the comment was not a student at Covington Catholic," the report states. "In addition, viewing longer videos of this comment reveals that a person in the crowd states, 'He does not go to CovCath' almost immediately after the comment was made."
The professional third-party investigation was conducted by Greater Cincinnati Investigation, Inc., who was retained by a law firm on behalf of the Covington diocese and Covington Catholic High School.
With four licensed investigators and 240 man hours, the team watched many hours of video footage and interviewed 43 Covington Catholic students and 13 chaperones. They also made efforts to contact various other parties.
Investigators were unable to get in contact with Nathan Phillips, the Native American man who beat a drum inches from a student's face. The investigators tried to contact Phillips via phone and email. They even went to Phillips' home in Ypsilanti, Michigan but were unable to contact him.
The report states, "In addition, our investigators travelled to Ypsilanti, Michigan to seek a personal interview. We are confident we visited Mr. Phillips' residence. He was not present over a six-hour period and we left a note asking him to contact us. We have not received a response."
Phillips walked up to the crowd of pro-life high-schoolers, beating a drum and chanting. He walked up to one young man in a Make America Great Again hat and beat the drum inches from the teenager's face.
Amid the media coverage and online outrage, that young man soon identified himself as Nick Sandmann, a Covington Catholic student.
Phillips, a Native American activist, claimed that the kids surrounded him, chanted "Build the wall" and intimidated him; but later video evidence showed that Phillips approached them, not the other way around. Likewise, as the investigators noted, none of the footage of the encounter shows the teenagers chanting "Build the wall."
The mainstream media ran with the story that the Native American was bullied by a crowd of Catholic pro-life high schoolers. Some issued clarifications when fuller video evidence surfaced, while others doubled down on portraying Phillips as the victim of racism.
Recently, an attorney representing Sandmann sent out letters to dozens of reporters, media organizations and others warning them of potential lawsuits for falsely damaging Sandmann's reputation.
Foys' new statement defending the students is different from his initial response to the controversy, which was to condemn their behavior. He and many other Catholic bishops and pro-life leaders were quick to throw the high schoolers under the bus.
The Covington bishop's new statement that the Covington Catholic students are exonerated contradicts what was stated by another Kentucky bishop, Bp. John Stowe of the Lexington diocese.
Even after more complete video footage online seemed to exonerate the Covington Catholic boys, Bp. Stowe came out with an op-ed blasting them. He said in a Jan. 23 piece for the Lexington Herald-Leader, "I am ashamed that the actions of Kentucky Catholic high school students have become a contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest."