Covington Teens’ Row Sparked By Radical Hebrew Israelite, Native American Nathan Phillips Stepped In To Help

An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial
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A man from Brooklyn who’s a member of the House of Israel admitted to starting the controversial row between different groups of protesters at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, including MAGA hat-wearing teenagers from the Covington Catholic High School, which ended up making headlines all around the world after a video of the confrontation went viral.

The radical Hebrew Israelite, who identifies himself as “Chief Ephraim Israel,” told the New York Post that the “word of God” had “sparked it all,” and that he and his fellow religious zealots were teaching the students a lesson before Native American activist Nathan Phillips stepped in to try and de-escalate the heated situation. While the first viral video appeared to show the Kentucky school students provoking Phillips, other clips later emerged depicting the run-up to the whole incident, including Israel hurling insults at the teens for over an hour — even calling them “a bunch of f****ts made out of incest,” according to the Daily Mail.

One of the kids in the video, Nick Sandmann, was immediately identified as the student looking down at Phillips, who’s also a veteran, and accused of racism. But he claimed in a statement that he and his classmates were only singing their “school spirit chants” to drown out the attacks coming from other protesters.

“They started doing their chants, so I was cutting into them. I called them dogs. They sounded like dogs,” Israel said, before adding that Phillips and his fellow activists only stepped in to try and help.

“I wish he didn’t. We was still teaching. We had so much more to go,” the 36-year-old claimed. Members of the House of Israel — also referred to as “Black Israelites” — are known for their extremist views and rhetoric in New York City.

Teenager Nick Sandmann said in an interview with NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie, which aired on Wednesday morning, that he believes he did nothing wrong by standing his ground in front of 64-year-old Phillips, as reported by the Daily Mail. When the Today host asked him if he felt like he owed anyone an apology, Sandmann said he had “every right” to stand there.

“My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips, I’d like to talk to him. In hindsight I wish we could’ve walked away and avoided the whole thing,” he said.

Sandmann and his family claim to have been hit with death threats and a wave of online bullying after the video that appeared to show him and his classmates mocking the Native American activist went viral. Also in an interview with NBC News, Phillips himself said that he had felt threatened by the Park Hills, Kentucky, students.