It was like a scene out of left-wing protest literature: a group of white, parochial-school boys in “Make America Great Again” gear taunting an American Indian protester, jeering and laughing, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after attending the anti-abortion March for Life.
The video lit up social media, leading to harsh condemnations of the school and the children in the video, and linking their behavior to the president. Disgust was, for the most part, bipartisan, and both the school, Covington Catholic, and the March for Life issued condemnations. Many observers, including me, saw another dramatic example of people publicly affiliating themselves with the president acting in cruel or prejudiced fashion.
But wait: Maybe it didn’t happen like that. An analysis by Reason’s Robby Soave posited that “far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby.”
Although Soave’s post added relevant context, it led to a sweeping counter-narrative that also failed to adequately describe what had occurred. The post, as Deadspin’s Laura Wagner wrote, was widely shared by media figures who apologized for jumping to conclusions, and the narrative shifted entirely in the other direction: It wasn’t the teenagers who were misbehaving; they were reacting to a circuslike atmosphere in which they were being taunted with insults by an extremist faction of the Black Hebrew Israelites in Washington, D.C.