‘I had every right to stand there’: Covington Catholic student says he has nothing to apologize for

23 Jan, 2019 11:52 / Updated 11 months ago
Nick Sandmann, the MAGA hat-wearing student at the center of the viral staredown with Native American campaigner Nathan Phillips, says he did nothing wrong during the clash in Washington.

During a preview clip from an NBC Today show interview, which will be broadcast nationally on Wednesday, he was asked by host Savannah Guthrie if he wanted to say sorry to Phillips for last week’s incident.

“As far as standing there, I had every right to do so,” said Sandmann, a junior at the Kentucky all-male private school Covington Catholic.

“My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I’d like to talk to him. I mean, in hindsight I wished we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing.”

The trivial but increasingly complicated incident outside the Lincoln Memorial last Friday has become a litmus test not only for political allegiances in the US, but for how the media operates.

Using a small excerpt of a much longer video, the encounter was initially framed as a large band of Trump-supporting teenagers surrounding and smirking at a Native American march.

A two-hour version of the footage later revealed that the children, who were waiting for a return bus after their day-trip, were abused by a third party, belonging to a niche religious group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, who goaded the students, calling them “crackers” and “incest babies.”

This video suggested that Phillips actively approached the children, and began to beat a drum and chant in their faces. Phillips, a 64-year-old professional activist, insists that he merely attempted to separate the feuding parties, and says that the teenagers should receive “cultural sensitivity training” after mocking him.

Further controversy followed less than 24 hours later, on Saturday, when Phillips reportedly attempted to disrupt a Catholic mass, and there are accusations that he may have misled the media by suggesting that he was a Vietnam vet, even though he apparently never served there during his four years in the army.

While initially there was talk of expulsions, Covington Catholic students have since been lionized by the conservative media, and invited to the White House by Donald Trump, who has highlighted them as an example of “Fake News and how evil it can be.”