The Make America Great Again hat-wearing Catholic high school student who stared down a Native American during a heated demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial says he wishes he would have walked away in the first interview since the confrontation.

Nick Sandmann and his family have been the target of death threats after a video of him and a group of his Covington Catholic classmates sparked outrage by appearing to mock 64-year-old Nathan Phillips, the Daily Mail reported.

Sandmann sat down with NBC News' Savannah Guthrie for an interview airing on Wednesday morning, during which the host asked him whether he thinks he owes anyone an apology.

"As far as standing there, I had every right to do so," Sandmann told Guthrie.


"My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr Phillips, I'd like to talk to him.

He added: "In hindsight I wish we could've walked away and avoided the whole thing."

The videos ignited a conversation that raged from social media to newspapers and television broadcasts and then back to social media again. President Donald Trump even weighed in, tweeting his support for "Sandmann and the students of Covington".

Sandmann's school in Park Hills, Kentucky, closed its doors on Tuesday (US time) amid safety fears, Covington Catholic High School principal Robert Rowe announced to parents on Monday night.

'After meeting with local authorities, we have made the decision to cancel school and be closed on Tuesday January 22, in order to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff.

"All activities on campus will be cancelled for the entire day and evening. Students, parents, faculty and staff are not to be on campus for any reason.

"Please continue to keep the Covington Catholic Community in your prayers," the letter said.

The school deleted its website, its Facebook page and disconnected its phone number over the weekend. Fees there can run up to US$9000 a year.


Sandmann released a lengthy statement denying that he and his friends were racist over the weekend. His family has hired the PR firm Run Switch to help them cope with the attention.

He already issued a lengthy statement to CNN insisting he and his friends had done no wrong.

Sandmann faces Phillips. Photo / AP
Sandmann faces Phillips. Photo / AP

A longer video has since emerged showing the teens in a standoff against members of a group, calling itself the Black Hebrew Israelites, in the lead up to the altercation with the Native American.

All three groups were in DC for various protests - the students attended a rally to end abortion, the Israelites were protesting centuries of oppression and Native Americans marching to end injustice for indigenous peoples across the globe.

The Israelites were filmed taunting everyone on the mall that day, calling the Native Americans who had gathered there for the Indigenous Peoples March 'Uncle Tomahawks' and '$5 Indians' and the high school students 'crackers' and worse.

One of the Covington students was filmed taking off his shirt and the teens started to do a haka.

Opinion was divided over the true story behind the altercations.

Some said the students had done nothing wrong and that Phillips approached them eager to "provoke" them. Others maintain they were mocking the man, who has said he served in the Vietnam war, for his Native American heritage.

Sandmann during the interview with NBC.
Sandmann during the interview with NBC.

The high-schoolers, who were in Washington DC to attend an anti-abortion protest, said they felt they were unfairly portrayed as villains in a situation where they say they were not the provocateurs.


Nick Sandmann gave this statement to CNN in the days after the video emerged:

I am providing this factual account of what happened on Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial to correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me.

I am the student in the video who was confronted by the Native American protestor. I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial at 4:30 p.m. I was told to be there by 5:30 p.m., when our busses were due to leave Washington for the trip back to Kentucky. We had been attending the March for Life rally, and then had split up into small groups to do sightseeing.

When we arrived, we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I am not sure what they were protesting, and I did not interact with them. I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group.

The protestors said hateful things. They called us 'racists,' 'bigots,' 'white crackers,' 'f****ts,' and 'incest kids.' They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would 'harvest his organs.' I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.

Because we were being loudly attacked and taunted in public, a student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group. The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school. Our chaperone gave us permission to use our school chants. We would not have done that without obtaining permission from the adults in charge of our group.

At no time did I hear any student chant anything other than the school spirit chants. I did not witness or hear any students chant 'build that wall' or anything hateful or racist at any time. Assertions to the contrary are simply false. Our chants were loud because we wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us by the protestors.

After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American protestors, who I hadn't previously noticed, approached our group. The Native American protestors had drums and were accompanied by at least one person with a camera.

The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face.

I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.

I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.

During the period of the drumming, a member of the protestor's entourage began yelling at a fellow student that we 'stole our land' and that we should 'go back to Europe.' I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions.

I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protestor. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why.

The engagement ended when one of our teachers told me the busses (sic) had arrived and it was time to go. I obeyed my teacher and simply walked to the busses (sic). At that moment, I thought I had diffused the situation by remaining calm, and I was thankful nothing physical had occurred.

I never understood why either of the two groups of protestors were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I've ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.

I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me -- to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.

I harbor no ill will for this person. I respect this person's right to protest and engage in free speech activities, and I support his chanting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial any day of the week. I believe he should re-think his tactics of invading the personal space of others, but that is his choice to make.

I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family's name. My parents were not on the trip, and I strive to represent my family in a respectful way in all public settings.

I have received physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults. One person threatened to harm me at school, and one person claims to live in my neighborhood. My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue.

I love my school, my teachers and my classmates. I work hard to achieve good grades and to participate in several extracurricular activities. I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen -- that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African Americans or Native Americans. I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that.

I cannot speak for everyone, only for myself. But I can tell you my experience with Covington Catholic is that students are respectful of all races and cultures. We also support everyone's right to free speech.

I am not going to comment on the words or account of Mr. Phillips, as I don't know him and would not presume to know what is in his heart or mind. Nor am I going to comment further on the other protestors, as I don't know their hearts or minds, either.

I have read that Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the United States Marines. I thank him for his service and am grateful to anyone who puts on the uniform to defend our nation. If anyone has earned the right to speak freely, it is a U.S. Marine veteran.

I can only speak for myself and what I observed and felt at the time. But I would caution everyone passing judgement based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas.

I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting