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Diocese Report: CovCath Students Didn't Instigate Incident

nicholas sandmann
Survival Media Agency via AP
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In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 image made from video provided by the Survival Media Agency, a teenager wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of an elderly Native American singing and playing a drum in Washington.

A report commissioned by the Covington Diocese finds students from Covington Catholic High School did not instigate a January incident with Native Americans and members of the Black Hebrew Israelites that went viral, drawing national attention and criticism.

Greater Cincinnati Investigation, Inc. says it interviewed students and chaperones and reviewed 50 hours of social media activity related to the incident in formulating the report. Attempts to reach Nathan Phillips and the owner of the @trevonallworthy Twitter account were unsuccessful, the report says.

The report concludes students performed school chants to "drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites," none of which were offensive or racist. "We found no evidence that the students performed a 'Build the Wall' chant," it states.

It further states the students did not use racist or offensive language with Nathan Phillips, nor did the students feel threatened though "many stated they were 'confused,' " and thought Phillips was intentionally joining in their cheering.

Students did perform "a 'tomahawk chop' to the beat of Mr. Phillips' drumming and some joined in Mr. Phillips' chant."

In a letter to CovCath parents, Bishop Roger Foys commends the students and says their reaction to the situation is to be lauded.

"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," he writes.

The diocese says it has no further comment on the matter.

Other Findings

Investigators also reviewed video of someone saying "it's not rape if you enjoy it" and conclude the person speaking was not a CovCath student. The report says a longer video of the incident includes a crowd member stating " 'He does not go to CovCath' almost immediately after the comment was made."

The report says a written statement from the main student highlighted in video footage, Nick Sandmann, "appears to accurately reflect the facts surrounding the interaction between the students and the Black Hebrew Israelites."

It also concludes public interviews with Nathan Phillips "contain some inconsistencies, and we have not been able to resolve them or verify his comments due to our inability to contact him."