Meanwhile, Jon Sopel broke his silence on the 'Covington boys v the Native American' story this morning on Today. Here's a transcript of his John Simpson Memorial Lecture on this morning's Today programme:
Jon Sopel: This time last Saturday it was all so straightforward. A video appears on Twitter. A group of teenage white boys are surrounding and jeering at a Native American who quietly, defiantly, is banging a tribal drum by the side of the Lincoln Memorial. One in particular, with a goofy grin and lips red from the cold, is standing right in his face and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat. The kids, from an all-boys Catholic school in Kentucky and nearly all wearing MAGA caps, had been in the nation's capital for the annual Right to Life March - the big gathering of the anti-abortion lobby. They seem braying and boorish. Social media lit up. Moral essayists dipped their quills into their self-righteous inkwell and started opining about the state of American society. Where were the parents? Why has American youth been so coarsened? What had happened to respect for our elders? And, in particular, what did this say about the nastiness of Trump's America? The council in Kentucky called for an inquiry. The school promised suspensions. The 65 year old Native American, Nathan Phillips, who was besieged, went on TV to lament their behaviour. Trump supporters were unusually sullen.
But then something odd happened. 24 hours later new smartphone video emerged painting a very different picture of the confrontation. A tiny group of African-American men are captured this time hurling vile abuse at the teenagers. They were from the fringiest of fringe organisations, the black Hebrew Israelites. They were abusing the Native Americans as well as the white boys. And whoosh! Social media lit up once again. The kids were singing out school chants this time as a way of drowning out the insults. Their restraint is now praised. Our teenage sinners from Covington High School are now saints. They'd been wronged. Donald Trump weighs in, blaming the media, exonerating the children. Now liberal America went a bit quiet. And the teenager, Nick Sandman, who'd been in the face of a tribal elder, took on a PR firm to act for him. He gave an exclusive interview to NBC's breakfast show:
Nick: My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr Phillips. In hindsight I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing, but I can't say that I'm sorry for listening to him and standing there.The elderly Native American had his life turned over. The Covington boys, who went from an ugly MAGA hat-wearing mob to pious Catholic students in a heartbeat, got a mauling too - perhaps justifiably. But maybe all of us who dabble in Twitter emerge with our reputations sullied. Since when was truth ever simple? Why can't we wait for more facts to emerge before passing judgment? Why do we seem so pre-programmed today to believe what we want to believe, and baulk when forced to listen to an opposing viewpoint? Whether it be Brexit, Question Time, Scottish independence, Trump, the wall, you name it, maybe we all have something to learn from what should have been a rather unremarkable confrontation at the Lincoln memorial last Friday.
That's all well and good, and is probably better than nothing, but...
It ignores the point that much of the mainstream media, including the BBC, disgraced themselves just as much as the citizens of social media over this.
(And, of course, many of Jon's BBC colleagues certainly didn't wait for more facts to emerge before they passed judgment on Twitter either.)
And by shifting the blame towards social media users and spreading the blame to "all" people, he rather too neatly side-steps fact that it was actually social media users, not the mainstream media, who stopped the truth being 'simple' here, and who showed that it wasn't 'the truth' after all.
Even his own version of events here suggests he hasn't checked out the third video - the one showing Mr Phillips approaching the boys, not being "besieged" by them, so the BBC is still getting it wrong.
Plus note how Jon's own sympathies emerge, especially in that "perhaps justifiably" in the final paragraph, and in his descriptions of Mr Phillips ("The elderly Native American had his life turned over.")
Not Jon Sopel's finest hour.
Update: Or to put it another way....
Update: Or to put it another way....