'Today' Interview With Covington Student Nicholas Sandmann Sparks Backlash (VIDEO)

Jessica Napoli
Twitter

NBC Today's co-anchor Savannah Guthrie sat down with Nick Sandmann, the high school student from Covington, Kentucky, who was the center of a controversial video that went viral over the weekend.

The journalist is now being criticized for her interview. Some people are voicing that giving Sandmann a national platform on which to speak was overkill, while others are saying that asking him to apologize to Native American activist Nathan Phillips was too much.

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Sandmann was filmed having a confrontation with Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Sandmann and some of his fellow classmates were in DC to attend the anti-abortion March for Life rally. After, they crossed path with Phillips who was participating in the Indigenous People's March.

The video depicts Sandmann wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and staring Phillips down as he beat his drum and sang. Sandmann's classmates are shown circling them while chanting and jumping and some are also wearing MAGA hats.

People flocked to Twitter to condemn Sandmann and the other kids involved because they believed the students were harassing Phillips. But others came to their defense, claiming other videos show that Phillips instigated the encounter.

Sandmann provided a full written statement via his newly hired PR team describing his version of the events.

During the Today interview, the 16-year-old addresses several points. First, he describes the events leading up to he and Phillips staring at each other. He says there was a small separate group of Hebrew Israelites, who insulted the students and others and he "felt threatened." Then, Phillips and a few other Native American men came into the crowd, he recounts.

“I would just say that the fact remains that they initiated their comments with us, and, I mean, they provoked us into a peaceful response of school spirit," he states.

"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. 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 [Phillips] and standing there," he adds.

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As for claims that he was smirking, Sandmann denies that he was — "I wasn't smirking 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... They've had to assume so many things to get there without consulting anyone that can give them the opposite story.

"I wanted the situation to die down, and I just wish he would have walked away, but I knew as long as I kept my calm, as long as I kept my composure and didn't do anything he might perceive as aggressive or elevation of the conflict, it would hopefully die," Sandmann continues.

After the interview aired, some responded to the segment, noting that the color of his skin makes all the difference:

While others thought the interview was biased:

You can watch the full Today interview below:

Today will be speaking with Nathan Phillips on Thursday morning.