Nathan Phillips & His Lies

Nathan Phillips, the man who falsely accused the students of Covington Catholic High of racially motivated harassment, is a career liar. He lied about the kids “swarming him,” he lied about being “blocked,” he lied that the kids were “looking for trouble, looking for something.” He also lied about the students saying “Build that wall! Build that wall!” Not only did he lie about the kids being “beasts” targeting “old black individuals” as “prey,” the “old black individuals” turned out to be the ones hurling outright racist and homophobic slurs throughout two hours of unedited footage. Even further, he defends the Black Hebrew Israelites claiming, “It looked like these young men were going to attack these guys.” Nathan Phillips didn’t just make a mistake, though, he goes further arguing thatThe Black Israelites, they were saying some harsh things, but some if it was true, too” and that when the students “found out there’s more truth out there [...] they were offended.”

He then pushes forward with this fabricated narrative claiming the following: “I think that was the push, that we need to use the drum, use our prayer and bring a balance, bring a calming to the situation.” In his defenders’ curious minds, bringing your face near enough to the kid’s face that you could kiss him is going to bring “calm” to the situation. Toward the end of the video, it can be seen clear as day that the kid is totally unmoving while Phillips moves progressively closer to his face. That kind of restraint is pretty commendable on Sandmann’s part, but more notable is the abject, observable lie made by Phillips about the situation. His aggressive drumbeating doesn’t paint the portrait of a sweet elderly man from one of America’s most historically oppressed racial groups. It portrays a lying opportunist trying to evoke a reaction from a confused students.

Is there an epidemic of Native American hatred in this country? If we were to follow Phillips’ media footprint, it would seem so. After all, he can’t seem to avoid public hate incidents. Just four years ago he was going for a passive stroll when he was set upon by viciously spiteful college students, who were having an American Indian-themed costume party.

Apparently, after instantly noticing he was Native American, they told him to come over. When he expressed that he was offended by their display, he claims they told him that they were “honoring him,” which is an interesting choice of words for drunken college students. When he told them that they weren’t “honoring” him, things took a violent turn. They didn’t want to honor anymore and allegedly began flinging beer cans at him, striking him in the chest.

Fox2 reports that he said “By the time police got there, it was like there was no party there at all,” which is itself incredibly convenient. The report doesn’t tell us what the conclusion of the police investigation was, and being that there’s no follow up… it’s almost like there was no party there at all. Given his observable lies about his encounter with the Covington kids, there’s no reason to believe there was.

These incidents throw into doubt a central claim made unquestioningly by every media outlet under the sun: that he’s a “Vietnam War Vet.” His oddly vague description of himself as being a “Vietnam-times” vet doesn’t help matters. As with the rest of this mostly fabricated story, the notion that he served during Vietnam is entirely false. For one thing, the math simply doesn’t add up. But we don’t even have to use guesswork on account that Navy Seal Don Shipley, who runs a stolen valor channel, acquired his records, which tell us that he wasn’t a combat veteran.

There’s a reason he’s using such a vague description. It gives him enough leeway to buy himself plausible deniability. Both Nathan Phillips and journalists are at fault here, though. Nathan Phillips never clarified and the journalists never cared to ask for clarification. And Phillip’s play for plausible deniability worked because he misled countless reporters, who were all too happy to be misled. Journalists have published outright lies about Mr. Phillip’s military service, even dating back to 2009. This week, CNN anchors like S. E. Cupp continually parroted the claim that he was a Vietnam veteran. CNN also changed what Phillips actually said, which was “Vietnam times veteran” to “Vietnam veteran” in the transcript of his interview that they spread all over their website and social media. A subsidiary of USA Today, Detroit Free Press, also published this lie reporting that Phillips “joined the Marines, serving in the Vietnam War, which we know now is not the role he performed in the military. And yet, there remains no correction at the time of this writing. In a photograph published by  Indigenous Life Movement, he’s described plainly as a Vietnam Vet. TMZ, Slate, Washington Post, and Huffington Post all claim he served in the Vietnam War. As of yet, Slate and TMZ have not corrected, but the Washington Post and HuffPo were forced to after curious readers did their journalism for them.

While we might be able to blame sloppy journalists or misinterpretations for these falsehoods, a Vogue report that was published on January 21st makes it seems he’s simply been lying. It reads:

Phillips was separated from his mother around age 5 and raised by a white family until he was 17, when he joined the Marines and served as an infantryman in the Vietnam War.

Odds are that this Vogue reporter didn’t just make this up if Phillips is also telling the Detroit Free Press that he served in the Vietnam War. Odds are when these authors are profiling the man, they aren’t sitting around and inventing facts about his life story out of thin air. They’re relying on information he gave to them--which is information that he has not seen fit to correct, despite fully knowing that it’s inaccurate. There’s no doubt he’s read the article published about him in 2009 and didn’t correct the record, even if he likely will now after scrutiny on more recent reports.

Nathan Phillips is obviously a charlatan. The bigger question is why an unknown charlatan was able to generate an event of mass outrage that equaled the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice.

Tracking the stories that aided the narrative that this man has routinely been mistreated by bigots and heaped sympathy upon him by claiming he’s a war vet highlights a basic failure of our journalistic class. We’re at the point where their judgement is so clouded that they won’t fact-check basic claims made by the people at the center of cultural flash points such as these. They are desperate for someone, anyone, to confirm the worldview of a nation plagued by historical injustice that stretches well into today, even when the majority of examples they cling to before the facts develop are proven to be lies.

Regardless of what motivates the blind faith of journalists to leap into fake stories such as these, doing so and getting away with it isn’t as easy as it once was. For all of social media’s faults, inevitably lies are discovered for what they are. That doesn’t mean they don’t deal real damage to the people who are smeared by them, but at least there’s some recourse to the slander. That’s in large part thanks to independent journalists and alternative media sources that take the time to question the prevailing narrative and get the right information out.