IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Nick Sandmann on encounter with Native American elder Nathan Phillips: 'I respect him'

The Covington Catholic student, dubbed "MAGA kid" after video of his controversial encounter at the Lincoln Memorial went viral, talks to Savannah Guthrie about the incident.
/ Source: TODAY

Nick Sandmann, one of the high school students videotaped last week in an apparent confrontation with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., says he was not “disrespectful” toward Nathan Phillips.

Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, sat down with Savannah Guthrie for an interview airing Wednesday on TODAY.

In a preview clip released Tuesday evening, Savannah asks Sandmann whether he feels he owes anybody an apology for his role in the encounter, which went viral.

“Do you see your own fault in any way?” she asks.

“As far as standing there, I had every right to do so,” Sandmann replies. “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 have walked away and avoided the whole thing.”

Sandmann has been the target of criticism online after a widely circulated video showed the boy, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, appearing to grin close to Phillips’ face as the activist sang and played a drum during an Indigenous Peoples March.

In a statement his family released through a public relations firm over the weekend, Sandmann said that the encounter occurred after another incident which was not shown in the initial video clip, in which four African-American protestors directed “derogatory insults” at his school group. He stated that as a result of that interaction, he had, with permission from a chaperone, led students in school spirit chants "to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group."

In the statement Sandmann said he “never interacted” with Phillips and was “startled and confused as to why he had approached me.”

Phillips has said that he approached the students, hoping to defuse the tension from a heated exchange he said he saw the group have with Black Hebrew Israelites.

He has laid blame on the school chaperones, telling MSNBC’s Joy Reid, "Where were they? How did they allow these students to come to this point after an hour of this happening? Were they with them? Were they encouraging them?"

Phillips told NBC News in an interview, “Instead of being expelled the students should go through some kind of sensitivity training. That they should ... cultural education of some kind. And if they don't, then don't graduate.”

Covington Catholic High School has said the students were in Washington, D.C., to attend the March for Life rally.

Savannah’s full interview with Sandmann will air Wednesday on TODAY.