Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, Kentucky apologised to students at Covington Catholic high school for earlier criticism of the students’ behaviour during a confrontation with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The students were in the nation’s capital to participate in the annual March for Life, on Friday 18 January, marking the anniversary of nationwide legal abortion.
“We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely, and we take full responsibility for it,” Foys wrote. “I especially apologise to Nicholas Sandmann and his family, as well as to all CovCath families who have felt abandoned during this ordeal.”
Video of the confrontation went viral on twitter, and at first it showed Sandmann, wearing a President Trump “Make America Great Again” or MAGA, campaign hat, staring for several minutes at Nathan Phillips, a Native American who was playing a drum and chanting in front of him while other students appeared to encircle Phillips. Media outlets portrayed the incident as an example of racial hostility on the part of the students and they were widely vilified.
In the ensuing days, additional video footage showed a more complicated picture. Phillips appeared to approach the students, not the other way round. Preceding the confrontation, the students had been taunted by a third group, the Black Hebrew Israelites, who hurled vulgar insults at them. Phillips later said he was trying to defuse the taunting. Sandmann went on national television to say he had nothing to apologise for but that he wished he had walked away. Phillips tried to disrupt a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the next day.
Bishop John Stowe, of Lexington, Kentucky, published an op-ed arguing it was inappropriate for anyone to wear a MAGA hat at a pro-life rally saying the slogan “supports a president who denigrates the lives of immigrants, refugees and people from countries that he describes with indecent words and haphazardly endangers with life-threatening policies”.