During an interview with NBC’s Today host, Savannah Guthrie, Nick Sandmann, one of the high school students identified in a video apparently showing a heated confrontation between the teens and a Native American elder, claims he wasn’t “disrespectful” toward 64-year-old Nathan Phillips.
Sandmann, who is a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, saw himself at the center of a national controversy when he was videotaped allegedly mocking Phillips, who is also a veteran, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., last Friday. However, in a new interview airing Wednesday morning, the teenager maintained his position that he had done nothing wrong — which he had already conveyed in a statement released earlier this week, as reported by the Inquisitr. In a teaser clip that aired Tuesday evening, the Today host confronts Sandmann, asking him if he felt that he owed anyone an apology for his behavior.
“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. I’d like to talk to him,” he replied.
“In hindsight, I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing.”
Sandmann and his classmates have been the targets of extreme online criticism, accusing the “Make America Great Again” hat-wearing teens of being racists after the first viral video showed him seemingly grinning very close to the Native American activist’s face, while Phillips sang chants and played the drum during an Indigenous Peoples March that was taking place near the Lincoln Memorial.
However, other clips from the run-up to the widely-shared incident have emerged since then, showing protesters from another group hurling “derogatory insults” at the Covington students. According to the Inquisitr, the man who reportedly sparked the row belongs to the radical Hebrew Israelites group, and he claimed that he was teaching the kids a lesson and that Phillips intervened so as to bring tensions down between the two groups.
“I wish he didn’t. We was still teaching. We had so much more to go,” the 36-year-old Brooklyn native said.
Sandmann said in his statement, which was released through a public relations firm, that after the Black Hebrew Israelites interacted with them, he asked permission from a school chaperone to lead his fellow students in “school spirit chants” to drown out the verbal attack, and that’s when Phillips approached him.
Phillips himself told NBC News that he stepped in to help de-escalate the whole situation and that he believed the kids “should go through some kind of sensitivity training” rather than being expelled. Covington Catholic High School, in Kentucky, stated the students were there to attend the March for Life rally.