Last year, Christian Bales was the valedictorian of Holy Cross High School, one of the schools run by the Kentucky Covington Diocese. Another of their schools, Covington Catholic High School, is at the center of this week’s controversy over a viral video showing teenagers wearing MAGA gear and harassing a Native American man at the Indigenous Peoples March in D.C. The students in the video have been alternately condemned, valorized, and profusely apologized to as the media has tripped over itself to prove they were not unfairly targeting the teens for their political beliefs.
Bales says that he expected something like this to happen.
“I was not surprised at all,” Bales told NBC News, when asked for his reaction to the video and controversy. “It was only a matter of time that something this school community did would blow up to this degree, and I think they need to be held accountable.”
Bales, who is openly gay, made news last year when he and the student body president were barred from speaking at their graduation. The diocese made the decision hours before. Instead of speaking at the ceremony, Bales used a bullhorn to make his speech outside the school.
The school says he was barred from speaking because the speech was “political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church,” which Bales says is untrue. In the speech, Bales touched on the Parkland school shooting and empowering youth.
Bales told NBC that Covington is “notorious for being a not-well-disciplined school.” He called the Diocese of Covington “archaic.”
“They have the very last say in everything about students in the diocese,” he said.
“This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people. It is important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate,” the Covington diocese told the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this week.
Since the initial video went viral, many outlets have claimed that longer videos of the encounter show that the students were not harassing Nathan Phillips, the Native American man who approached them with a drum to try to defuse conflict between the students and a group of Black Israelites.
But Bales doesn’t buy that interpretation. The students “were not blameless,” he told NBC.
CORRECTION: The Covington diocese, Holy Cross High School, and Covington Catholic High School are all located in Kentucky, not in Kansas. We regret the error.