When Native-American activist Nathan Phillips approached a group of high school students at the Lincoln Memorial over the weekend, a video of the incident that originally criticized the teens as the aggressors went viral. Later, longer videos emerged showing that the teens were approached by Phillips, not the other way around, as he claimed.
"I was absolutely afraid. There was a group of over 200 young, angry white men who were displaying mob mentality, and they were facing down just four black individuals," says Nathan Phillips. "A snap of the finger could have caused them kids to descend on those four individuals." pic.twitter.com/yc8i0SJLPd
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) January 22, 2019
In all these reports, Phillips is described as a Vietnam veteran. But is that true?
Phillips’s veteran status has been called into question.
The Washington Times reports:
According to multiple news accounts, the activist is 64 years old, which means he would have been 18 years old in 1973, the last year any U.S. combat units were stationed in Vietnam. Mr. Phillips also claims to be a Marine veteran, although the last Marine combat units left Vietnam in 1971.
A careful reading of Mr. Phillips‘ own descriptions does not make clear if he ever set foot in Vietnam. Instead, he has used much more careful language claiming he is a “Vietnam times veteran,” an ambiguous phrasing that led many media accounts to conclude he was a combat veteran.
The Times noted that Phillips could not be reached for comment on Monday.
For you guys whining about the source, here’s the Washington Times making the same point.https://t.co/QWppEYAavj
— TheSaltyMedic (@SaltMedic) January 22, 2019
RedState compared the possibility of Phillips not being a veteran to Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal who had a similar controversy.
“During his 2010 run for the Senate, then Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was revealed to have lied about serving in Vietnam,” RedState notes. “Over the years, Blumenthal had made much of his service in Vietnam as a Marine but it was revealed that not only had Blumenthal not served in Vietnam, his USMC service was limited to being a member of the Marine Corps Reserve which, along with his college deferments, kept him out of Vietnam.”
Whether or not Mr. Phillips actually served in Vietnam remains to be seen. What is not in question is how quickly the media and left jumped to conclusions about this incident without having all the facts, portraying the high school students in the worst ways imaginable and holding up Nathan Phillips as a hero.
If he’s not a Vietnam veteran, that won’t even come close to being the biggest lie told about this controversy.
How many folks denounced the racist, bigoted, insane rhetoric and behavior of the fringe #BlackHebrewIsraelites in DC? Or the false characterization (or outright lies) told by #NathanPhillips ? Do better, media. #CovingtonBoys
— Dean Cain (@RealDeanCain) January 22, 2019
UPDATE: The media has started to acknowledge that Phillips is, indeed, not a Vietnam veteran:
Washington Post corrects key part of Covington story — Native American activist Nathan Phillips did not fight in the Vietnam War
— David Mastio (@DavidMastio) January 22, 2019
According to CNN transcripts, Phillips claimed to have been a Vietnam veteran in the past:
According to CNN transcripts, Nathan Phillips stated he was a Vietnam veteran, twice.https://t.co/5r5c1HRRpJ
— Alex VanNess (@thealexvanness) January 22, 2019
Here’s Phillips’s exact quote from the CNN interview: “And I’m a Vietnam veteran and I know that mentality of ‘There’s enough of us. We can do this.'”
UPDATE 2: More footage has been recovered of Phillips claiming to have served in Vietnam:
Nathan Phillips today: “What I’ve always said is I never stepped foot in South Vietnam.”
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) January 24, 2019
🚨Nathan Phillips, January 3, 2018🚨
“I’m a Vietnam Vet. I served in Marine Corps 72 to 76. I got discharged May 5, 1976. I got honorable discharge and one of the boxes shows peacetime or, what my box says is that I was **in theater**. I don’t talk much about my Vietnam times.” pic.twitter.com/nIoYxGoPqM
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) January 24, 2019