A Catholic high school student whose close encounter with a Native American activist and a black religious sect was captured on video in Washington, D.C. says he has nothing to apologize for.
Nick Sandmann told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday that he had every right to be there, as did the others who gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. He said he wasn’t disrespectful and was trying to stay calm under the circumstances.
Videos posted of Sandmann and his Covington classmates wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and facing off against Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips have sparked widespread criticism. But the various sides say they’ve been misunderstood and that snippets of video were taken out of context.
In a different morning show appearance two high school students from the same school stirred controversy by claiming that blackface is "showing school spirit."
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"Fox & Friends" co-host Steve Doocy asked senior Sam Schroder: “Five years ago, there was a pep rally where one of the members of the school body appeared to have blackface on. People have even asked you to explain that. How do you explain that?”
Schroder replied, “I just explain it as showing school spirit. We have many themes. Like nerd, business, whiteout, blueout, blackout—as you’ve seen in the video. Ever since I’ve gone to CovCath, we haven’t been able to wear black paint because of the video, but I know the kids meant nothing by it, it’s just showing school spirit.”
In another piece of reporting, NBC News interviewed Christian Bales, former Covington valedictorian and openly gay student, who along with last year's school president were both banned at the last minute from speaking at graduation.
“I was not surprised at all,” Bales told NBC. “It was only a matter of time that something this school community did would blow up to this degree, and I think they need to be held accountable.”
Many saw the white teenagers, who had traveled to Washington for an anti-abortion rally, appearing to mock the Native Americans. Others interpreted Phillips’ drumming and singing as a hostile act. Phillips has since explained that he was trying to intervene between the boys and a group of black street preachers, who called themselves Hebrew Israelites, that were shouting racist insults at both the Native Americans and the white kids.
Sandmann said he definitely felt threatened by the black men, who were calling them things like “incest kids” and “bigots.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center designates the Black Hebrew Israelites as a hate group. In 2016, the SPLC referred to the group as “a black nationalist theology dating back to the 19th century that preaches people of color are the true children of God.”