The MAGA-hat wearing Covington teen says he doesn’t owe anyone an apology, and why are we not surprised?
Most Americans are likely aware of the now-viral video that depicts a group of teenage boys in MAGA hats appearing to taunt a Native American protestor at the Indigenous People’s March on January 18th. Since then, many conflicting accounts of the incident have emerged, with some defending the boys from Covington Catholic High School and others arguing that their behavior—which included chanting “Build that wall,” and potentially harassing women—was unacceptable. Nick Sandmann, the student photographed standing inches away from Native American elder Nathan Phillips, has since issued a statement defending himself and his classmates. And in a January 23rd interview on Today, he reasserted that he did nothing wrong.
When Today host Savannah Guthrie asked Sandmann if he felt he was at fault for the situation, he maintained that an apology was not necessary.
"As far as standing there, I had every right to do so," he told Guthrie. "My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I'd like to talk to him. In hindsight, I wish we could've walked away and avoided the whole thing, but I can't say that I'm sorry for listening to him and standing there."
Sandmann then repeated his account of the events on the 18th (he and his classmates were in D.C. to protest women’s reproductive rights at the Right To Life March). He told Guthrie that a small group of Hebrew Israelites had been shouting insults and slurs at the boys and that he and other students were performing school chants to drown them out. Clips provided by NBC seem to support Sandmann’s story. He denied that his classmates had chanted “Build the wall” (although Phillips told Today they did). He also said that Phillips approached their group while this was happening, which Phillips has also confirmed, telling The New York Times that he “stepped in between to pray.”
The high school junior also denied that he had been “smirking” at Phillips, even though Guthrie pointed out that his stance appeared aggressive and confrontational.
"I wasn't smirking," he said, "but people assume that's what I have (done), and they've gone from there to titling me and labeling me as a racist person, someone that's disrespectful to adults."
He also claimed he didn’t see other Covington Catholic students making a “Tomahawk chop” gesture—though eyewitness said they did.
Today will interview Phillips about the encounter tomorrow, January 24th. The Lakota People’s Law Project told CNN in a statement that it has offered to visit Covington Catholic to discuss how to respect different cultures. We’re eager to hear what Phillips has to say—though we wish he also had the chance to tell his story today—and will definitely be tuning in.