Nathan Phillips, the Native American tribal elder who was involved in a tense standoff with Covington Catholic High School students on Friday, said he wasn’t a fan of Nicholas Sandmann’s statements or his “Today” show interview, telling the program that it all appeared fake.
Sandmann and Phillips were the central players in a standoff at the Lincoln Memorial, video of which sent much of social media into a fury over the weekend.
“What did you think about [Sandmann’s] words … and his version of this encounter?” host Savannah Guthrie asked Phillips.
“Coached and written up for him, insincerity, lack of responsibility, those are the words I came up with — but then I went to go pray about it and then I woke up, woke up with this forgiving heart, I forgive him.” Phillips said.
Elsewhere in the interview he said, he could only get through a few lines of Sandmann’s statement recounting his version of the events before he stopped reading.
The interview was a coup for Guthrie and the “Today” show, which also scored an exclusive with Sandmann on Wednesday. In his interview, the Covington student seen smirking at Phillips said he wished he had just walked away but pointedly refused to apologize for his actions.
“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 said. “But I can’t say that I’m sorry for listening to him and standing there.”
Footage of the moment sparked heated passions over the weekend and a broad wave of denunciations toward the teenagers.
Covington Catholic said expulsion could be possible, while The Catholic Diocese of Covington also condemned the students. Aggrieved Internet denizens like former Vanity Fair contributor Kurt Eichenwald — said the kids involved should all be denied work “in perpetuity.” Eichenwald also shared close ups of every student’s face to his Twitter to help identify the kids. A writer for GQ urged his followed to doxx the students. A writer for Vulture said he wished the students and their families would die.
Longer footage of the incident from other angles, however, showed that the full story was considerably more nuanced. Many celebrities and media bigwigs moved to delete tweets. In a widely circulated piece, Reason Magazine editor Robby Soave said the media largely botched the story.
“Far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby,” wrote Soave. “Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people.”
“Even though I’m angry, I still have that forgiveness in my heart for those students.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 24, 2019