This article in Reason looks like the most balanced and dispassionate account of this now infamous event. Based on this, I think everyone who vilified these boys should be ashamed of themselves and apologize. It looks like they face libel suits if they do not.
Here's a key quote by the author:
It would be impossible to definitively state that none of the young men did anything wrong, offensive, or problematic, at some point, and maybe the smiling student was attempting to intimidate Phillips. But there's shockingly little evidence of wrongdoing, unless donning a Trump hat and standing in a group of other people doing the same is now an act of harassment or violence. Phillips' account, meanwhile, is at best flawed, and arguably deliberately misleading.
I might point out that Reason.com is really neither right-wing or left-wing; the folks there are libertarian and line up either conservative or liberal, depending on the issue.
And, I might further point out that since this article, Mr. Phillips has been caught in some lies and shifting stories, so his credibility is, I think, shot. On the other hand, the statements made by the boys in the situation seem to line up with the video, so their credibility looks pretty good.
Let me also add that elsewhere, Glenn Beck laid out a minute-by-minute account. And he makes an additional point: the crazy-vile-vicious "Black Israelites," who are the real bigots and haters in this story, were initially directing their vile attacks on the Native American group -- not the high school boys, who were just a handful at the beginning. In his account, the boys' cheers were intended to drown out the hate; meaning, they were trying to be helpful to the "Indigenous Peoples" group. You may not like Beck; I don't necessarily like or agree with him. But you are welcome to refute him.
Also: at least one of the high school boys in the group was African-American, and the "Black Israelites" singled him out, calling him the n-word and saying his so-called friends were going to kill him. His friends -- who have been libeled before the world as racists, stood by him, hugged him and can be heard saying on the tape, "but we love you!"
There are a lot of people who have backed away from their initial attacks, but rather than apologize, pure and simple, they hemming and hedging, while they latch onto whatever the latest rumor or innuendo is that might discredit the Covington Catholic boys, even by the loosest association, all in order to avoid the right thing, which is a clean, full, unambiguous apology.
I was really sorry to see the bishop of Covington and the administrators of Covington Catholic High School react so rashly and throw their students under the bus. That decision is nearly impossible to defend. Again, all they had to do was say, we take this very seriously and we want to know what happened. We are going to find out. After their first, rash statement, they did issue a second statement that was more measured. I'm hopeful that after a full investigation, they will -- if the facts bear it out -- give a genuine apology.
Folks on the left better wise up. This sort of thing isn't going to be forgotten. Lots and lots of parents, who aren't particularly political, are watching this and saying, "that could have been my son." The scary and sad thing is that all this plays precisely into the hands of "white nationalist" nutballs. Think their recruiting is going well this week?
Oh, and by the way, anyone notice what I did? I waited. Lots of (self-) important people couldn't move fast enough to share their hot takes with the whole world. Do they imagine that if they don't, something terrible will happen? What egos they must have! I'm beginning to think the most dangerous place to be is in the path between Father James Martin and a microphone or his ability to send a tweet.
But it isn't just celebrities and professional opinionators who are guilty of this. Lots of people, including friends of mine and relatives, are awfully quick to share a sensational video or news item or whatever on Facebook or Twitter or wherever else. You might want to learn to forebear. First, as a matter of conscience. If I had helped smear these high school boys, I would not sleep well and I would be racked with thoughts of what I needed to do to put it right. As President Calvin Coolidge said, no one ever got in trouble for what he didn't say. Hyperbole, but it makes the point. Sometimes the right thing to do is to keep your yap tightly shut. The world will get along just fine without your immediate contribution.
But if not for conscience, then for your own well-being. The pendulum is going to swing on this, and sooner or later, there will be consequences for those who thoughtlessly or recklessly participate in these pile-ons. I'm not an attorney, but I'm guessing that you don't have to be anyone famous to be sued. If you post something online, I'm betting you can be held responsible.