covington controversy
January 24, 2019

Nathan Phillips, the Native American man in a viral video who is stared down by a Catholic high school student, says he forgives all of those involved in the controversy.

Phillips spoke with Today Thursday and said he was "upset" by the interview with Nick Sandmann that aired on the network the day before. Sandmann did not offer an apology to Phillips, saying he didn't behave disrespectfully and had "every right" to stand in front of him. Phillips said he turned the interview off after 30 or 40 seconds, saying to himself, "That's all I needed to hear."

Sandmann's response to the controversy, Phillips said, was "coached," and has been characterized by "insincerity" and a "lack of responsibility." Phillips also said that because Sandmann has hired a public relations firm, "those aren't even his words."

At the same time, Phillips said he "went to go pray about it." "Even though I'm angry, I still have that forgiveness in my heart for those students," he said.

Phillips has said he was trying to defuse a tense situation between the students and another group of protesters, and he began to play his drum. In the video, Sandmann was seen wearing a Make America Great Again hat and smirking while staring at Phillips. Phillips again told Today Thursday he heard the students chanting "build the wall," which Sandmann has denied.

Watch the full Today interview with Phillips below. Brendan Morrow

January 23, 2019

The Catholic high school student at the center of a viral video controversy says he wishes things had gone differently but that he didn't do anything wrong.

Nick Sandmann, the student wearing a Make America Great Again hat whose confrontation with a Native American man, Nathan Phillips, went viral over the weekend, spoke with Today. He was asked whether he has anything to apologize for. "As far as standing there, I had every right to do so," Sandmann said. "My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips."

Phillips says he was trying to "defuse" a confrontation between the students and a group of protesters, but Sandmann told Today he was "unsure" of what Phillips was trying to accomplish. Several times throughout the interview, Sandmann said he wishes he had walked away from the encounter, and when asked why he did not so, he said he "didn't want to be disrespectful to Mr. Phillips and walk away if he was trying to talk to me" and that he did "not want to bump into anyone."

While the video was seen by many as Sandmann and his peers gleefully mocking Phillips, Sandmann said he behaved the way he did in an attempt to prevent any aggression. As far as his smile in the video goes, Sandmann told Today that, "I see it as a smile saying, 'This is the best you're going to get out of me. You won't get any further reaction of aggression, and I'm willing to stand here as long as you want to hit this drum in my face."

Watch the full interview below. Brendan Morrow

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