Kentucky high schooler Nicholas Sandmann is telling his side of the story as to why he was filmed getting in the face of a Native American who was peacefully protesting at the Lincoln Memorial.
UPDATE: In an earlier Washington Post report Nathan Phillips was described as a “Vietnam vet.” However, the newspaper has now corrected that account and noted that he served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1972 to 1976.
ORIGINAL: It’s the viral video everyone has seen by now, where Kentucky high schooler Nicholas Sandmann was seen getting in the face of a Native American man Nathan Phillips, 64, during the Washington D.C. Indigenous People’s March on Jan. 18 at the Lincoln Memorial. He stood super close to the man who was doing a drum chant with a smile on his face while wearing a pro-Donald Trump “Make American Great Again” red cap as the 16-year-old’s white classmates appeared to cheer him on. Now Nicholas is telling his side of the story about what went down and how the video is not all that it seemed to be. He sat down with the Today Show‘s Savannah Guthrie for his first on-camera interview that airs on Jan. 23 and in a preview clip here’s what he had to say.
Savannah asked him, “Do you feel from this experience that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own fault in any way?” Nick responded in a quiet almost monotone voice that “As far as standing there I had every right to do so. My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him and I would like to talk to him. I mean, in hindsight, I wish we would have walked away and avoided the whole thing.”
Nick had previously released a statement to CNN defending himself, claiming he was not mocking Nathan. “I was not intentionally making faces at the protester. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.”
"Do you feel from this experience that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own fault in any way?”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 22, 2019
He noted that longer clips that have appeared online “show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas.” Nick added, “I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen — that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African-Americans or Native Americans. I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that.”
The teens had just come from a March for Life anti-abortion rally on the National Mall when they encountered tribal members at the Lincoln Memorial. The video of Nick getting in Nathan’s face as fellow students seemed to cheer him on went viral on Jan. 19. Their high school and diocese in Kentucky slammed their actions with the statement: “We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic high school students. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion. We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and those who support the pro-life movement.”