Teen wearing 'MAGA' hat in controversial viral video speaks out in new interview

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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VIDEO: Teen Wearing MAGA Hat Taunts Native American

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The teen seen wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat in a controversial viral video recorded last weekend outside the Lincoln Memorial told his side of the story in a "Today" show interview.

>> Watch the full interview here

The polarizing video showed Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, grinning and standing inches away from veteran and former Native Youth Alliance director Nathan Phillips on Friday during the Indigenous Peoples March. Phillips can be seen drumming and chanting in the clip.

In an interview that aired Wednesday morning, Sandmann told "Today" host Savannah Guthrie that the incident occurred after members of another group, the Hebrew Israelites, called his school group "homophobic, racist, derogatory" names.

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"Our school was slandered by the African-Americans who had called us all sorts of things," Sandmann said.

The Hebrew Israelites, however, claimed that the Catholic students started the dispute, "Today" reported. But Sandmann said his group had been yelling school spirit chants.

"Did anyone shout any insults back or any racial slurs at the group?" Guthrie asked Sandmann.

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"We're a Catholic school, and it's not tolerated," Sandmann replied. "They don't tolerate racism, and none of my classmates are racist people."

As the boys and Hebrew Israelites continued to clash, Phillips and other Native Americans stood between the two groups. Soon, Sandmann and Phillips were standing face-to-face.

When asked what he had been thinking at the time, Sandmann said he just "wanted the situation to die down."

"I just wish he would've walked away," he said.

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Although Phillips said he heard students yelling, "Build the wall," Sandmann denied the claim.

"I never heard anyone say, 'Build the wall,' and I don't think I've seen it in any videos," Sandmann said.

When Guthrie asked Sandmann why he didn't walk away, Sandmann said that in retrospect, he wishes he had.

"I didn't want to be disrespectful to Mr. Phillips and walk away if he was trying to talk to me," he said.

Sandmann said that contrary to what critics have said, he was not smirking at or taunting Phillips.

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"I see it as a smile saying that this is the best you're going to get out of me," he told Guthrie. "You won't get any further reaction of aggression."

Sandmann said he has the "utmost respect" for Phillips.

"It’s another person that freely used his First Amendment right, and I want to thank him for his military service, as well," Sandmann said, adding that he'd "certainly like to speak" with Phillips.

Sandmann said he has received both supportive and negative messages in wake of the incident.

"People have threatened our lives," he said.

Read more here.

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