After an incident involving Covington Catholic High School students following Friday’s March for Life in Washington D.C., an Native American activist and black supremacist protesters became emblematic of “fake news” complaints that have been lodged against the establishment media for decades.
Starting with a short snippet of video featuring the Native American activist — identified as Omaha tribe elder and Marine Corps veteran Nathan Phillips — banging a drum and chanting while locked in a standoff with a smiling young teen wearing a red MAGA hat, the media ran wild with accusations of racism and harassment against the elder by the students who had purportedly approached and surrounded him in an intimidating display of white privilege and social oppression.
Except, having rushed to judgment without waiting for all of the facts, much of the media was forced to walk back their initial reports by Sunday after other, longer videos emerged that painted an entirely different picture. It was the boys who had been harassed by the black supremacists and approached by Phillips, not the other way around, as had been implied at first.
The media had sought to demonize the students and portray Phillips as a victim, and countless outlets — including The Washington Post — reported that the abuse from the boys was extra terrible in light of the fact that Phillips was a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.
Except, the media has had to walk back that claim as well, as it has now been revealed that Phillips never served in Vietnam, though it is still maintained that he served as a Marine during the same time period.
The Washington Post issued a correction on Tuesday about Phillips to the hit piece against the MAGA hat-wearing boys that was first posted on Sunday morning. That correction reads: “Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that Native American activist Nathan Phillips fought in the Vietnam War. Phillips served in the U.S. Marines from 1972 to 1976 but was never deployed to Vietnam.”
This is yet another huge factual error within the larger array of mistakes in the story that the media got wrong at first glance. It doesn’t appear that Phillips ever specifically described himself as a combat veteran — though he certainly remains fair game for criticism for his distorted version of events in several interviews following the incident.
Yet, despite Phillips having never specifically said he was a combat veteran of the Vietnam era, that was most definitely insinuated — both implicitly and explicitly by some — in countless reports and tweets from media outlets and reporters.
CNN transcripts from their interview with Nathan Phillips say that he said he was a Vietnam War veteran, but the video interview shows him saying he is a “Vietnam times veteran.”
According to CNN transcripts, Nathan Phillips stated he was a Vietnam veteran, twice.https://t.co/5r5c1HRRpJ
— Alex VanNess (@thealexvanness) January 22, 2019
The folks over at a veteran-focused blog known as This Ain’t Hell took a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the media’s portrayal of the self-described “Vietnam times veteran.”
Without Phillips’ military service records to verify — that have been requested — the blog nevertheless proceeded to display several screenshots of media chyrons and tweets announcing Phillips as a war vet, again clearly implying that he had served in the conflict.
The blog further dug into several interviews of Phillips and even looked into old media accounts of Phillips from prior incidents over the years and found no evidence that he had ever described himself as a combat veteran, but did find several instances where potentially “over-zealous” reporters had assigned that specific honor to him.
On top of that, the blog also looked closely at his age — reported to be 64 — and compared that to the actual timeline of the Vietnam War. Phillips would have turned 18 right around the tail-end of the war in 1972/73, so there is only an exceptionally small window with little margin for error to account for his having graduated from high school, enlisting in the Marines, as well as graduating from basic training and additional training schools prior to being immediately shipped off to the war zone, were he to have actually served in the war.
Again, without his actual service records to provide verification, there is really no way to know for sure, but odds are Phillips served in the Marines during what is called the Vietnam era — which officially ended in 1975 — without having served in the combat zone.
To be sure, we here at Conservative Tribune are not knocking Phillips for his military service. Indeed, we commend him for his service and sacrifice to the nation, regardless of whether he served overseas or at home, during a time of war or peace.
Instead, we are throwing a sharp elbow in the direction of the mainstream media — especially The Washington Post — and all of the reporters who perpetuated the implication that he was a Vietnam War veteran who had actually fought in the war, which appears to have not been the case at all.
This was a story made huge by the media in large part because it was deceptively framed to fit the preconceived notions of liberals by portraying a Native American activist as an oppressed victim and a bunch of white, MAGA hat-wearing Catholic school boys as privileged aggressors, which was pretty much the opposite of what actually happened. The media should be ashamed of themselves, and minor corrections and half-hearted apologies aren’t going to cut it in making things right this time.
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