During an interview with Today on Wednesday, Nick Sandmann, the high school student who was recorded mocking Native American veteran Nathan Phillips, utilized his first televised interview since the altercation to defend his actions. On Thursday, the network invited Phillips to discuss the standoff, during which he called Sandmann's statement insincere and a demonstration of "lack of responsibility."
Sandmann told news anchor Savannah Guthrie that he was not disrespecting Phillips when he smirkingly stared him down. He claimed that he and his fellow students were "provoked" by the activists and alleged that he has respect for Phillips and would like to talk to him.
One day later, Phillips explained to Guthrie that although he has accepted Sandmann's apology, the boy's message was "coached and written up for him," and he failed to take responsibility for his actions. "Those are the words I came up with, but then I went to go pray about it," Phillips said. "And then I woke up, and I woke up with this forgiving heart. So I forgive him."
During an interview with TMZ, Phillips explained that he and Sandmann should not be the ones having this dialogue, but rather the Indigenous people and the Catholic Church.
The initial confrontation took place during the Indigenous People's March on Jan. 19 in Washington, D.C. Sandmann was attending the anti-abortion March for Life rally when the two met on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The initial footage went viral, leading many commentators to denounce the teen's actions as insulting and racist. On Sunday, another long-form video was uploaded, which included footage of the events that came before and after Sandmann's faceoff with Phillips.
The Black Hebrew Israelites were allegedly calling Sandmann and his classmates “future school shooters,” prior to Phillips' arrival. Sandmann insisted during his Today interview that no racial slurs were used as retaliation.
Phillips then made his way to the Memorial when he saw the tensions escalating between the two groups. "When I was in prayer, it wasn’t that I felt like I could stop anything or do anything," he said. "But I felt like I was spiritually moved into that center, into the center of that whirlwind."
Phillips explained that as he approached the crowd, Sandmann stood in his way. “The prayer, it was for peace, harmony, love, a better America. Because what I was seeing was the fabric of America being torn apart by bigotry, hate, prejudice, division,” he said.
Since the initial video was released, Sandmann released a statement explaining that he was singled out by the public and the media. Although Sandmann and Phillips' encounter has gradually developed since it occured, students from Covington Catholic High School were heard chanting "Trump 2020" and "build the wall" during the protests.
"I still have that forgiveness in my heart for the students," Phillips said. "And that forgiveness even goes to those chaperones, those teachers who should’ve just said, 'You students, this isn’t the place.'"