The Covington Catholic High School student at the center of the latest fake news controversy spoke out, detailing what actually happened on Jan. 18.
A slew of news stories based on a short video recorded in Washington claimed that the student and other students with him harassed a Native American and anti-President Donald Trump activist Nathan Phillips, triggering a number of threats against the students.
However, the full video footage from that day, showed the activist approaching the students and sparking the incident that involved no clear harassment.
In response, Nick Sandmann, the student seen standing in front of the activist and smiling, issued a statement.
“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,” Sandmann wrote.
He said that he and other Covington students arrived at the memorial at 4:30 p.m. and were waiting for their buses when a group of African-American protesters, identified as Black Hebrew Israelites, began yelling at them. Video footage shows the group hurling obscenities at the students, who refrained from doing much in return.
At one point, the group told an African-American Covington student that they would “harvest his organs.”
“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,” Sandmann said.
After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American activist approached the group along with several other protesters and got in the face of Sandmann as he drummed and chanted loudly.
“The protester 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,” Sandmann wrote.
“I never interacted with this protester. 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 protesters, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.”
He added, “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 incident, a member of the Native American’s entourage yelled at a Covington student that they “stole our land” and should “go back to Europe,” as heard in the full video footage. As a student began to respond, Sandmann said he told him not to engage.
The engagement abruptly ended when the buses arrived and students filed into them.
Defending himself from those who accused him of harassing Phillips, Sandmann wrote: “I was not intentionally making faces at the protester. 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.”
He also said that he harbors no ill will against Philipps and respects his right to engage in free speech activities.
And he said that his family is getting a number of threats and other messages after he was doxxed, or had personal information revealed by leftwing activists.
“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,” Sandmann said. “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.”