Nicholas Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School, is the teen shown in videos standing face to face with Nathan Phillips January 18 at the conclusion of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day March and rally and the March for Life in Washington D.C.
Sandmann issued a statement about the incident on January 20. He appeared on NBC’s Today show January 23 in an interview with Savannah Guthrie.
“I am the student who was confronted by the Native American protestor,” Sandmann’s statement begins.
You can read Sandmann’s full statement below:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sandmann Said Covington Students Began Chanting a School Fight Song to ‘Counter Hateful Things’ Said to the Group by Black Hebrew Israelites
Sandmann’s statement was emailed to Heavy from Louisville, Kentucky, public relations firm RunSwitch. The firm was founded by Scott Jennings, an advisor to Sen. Mitch McConnel’s Super PAC, Kentuckians for Strong Leadership.
In the statement, Sandmann said he and other Covington Catholic students encountered the Black Hebrew Israelites, who appeared in videos in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The group had been loudly shouting their rhetoric that included their denunciation of Native Americans there for the Indigenous Peoples’ Day March.
Sandmann says that when he and other Covington students came upon the group, the Black Hebrew Israelites shouted insults and “hateful things” including as can be heard on the video, “incest babies.”
Sandmann says a student asked adults with the school group if they could sing their “fight song to counter the hateful things” that were being directed at them. As can be seen in the video, one boy, who had received permission, Sandmann said, began to disrobe and banged his chest as the rest of the students began a chant. Sandmann is clear that the students would not have done it without adult permission.
Sandmann said at no time did he or any Covington students chant “build the wall,” and claims that Nathan Phillips, whom he does not name but refers as “the protestor everyone saw in the video, “waded into the crowd” as the way was “parted” for him and “locked eyes” with Sandmann, who says he remained motionless.
“I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face,” Sandmann said. “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.”
2. Sandmann Claims He Was ‘Singled Out for a Confrontation,’ & Told NBC ‘None of my Classmates are Racist People’
Sandmann denied that he or any Covington Catholic students said, ‘Build the wall.” He claims the group was harassed by the Native American group.
“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.’”
Sandmann said, “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.”
“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.”
3. Sandmann Says he & His Family Have Been Threatened by the ‘Social Media Mob’
Sandmann goes on to say he’s being called a racist, he’s received death threats and had that his family has been dragged into the situation. He says he’s a good and practicing Catholic who gets good grades.
“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.”
4. Sandmann & His Family Have Shuttered Their Social Media Accounts
Sandmann and his family shuttered their social media Saturday as word was getting out that he was the student in Phillips’ face and most visible in the viral video, albeit buttressed by dozens of laughing and cheering classmates.
Sandmann made his Twitter account private, but Heavy was able to obtain a screenshot of a post he made Friday on Twitter where he laments, “Where’s Ben Shapiro?”
Shapiro spoke at the March for Life.
In his speech, Shapiro, a conservative writer and commentator “defended a hypothetical decision to spare the life of an infant Adolf Hitler,” according to HuffPo.
“The argument, I guess here, is that would you kill baby Hitler? And the truth is that no pro-life person on earth would kill baby Hitler, because baby Hitler wasn’t Hitler, adult Hitler was Hitler. Baby Hitler was a baby. What you presumably want to do with baby Hitler is take baby Hitler out of baby Hitler’s house and move baby Hitler into a better house where he would not grow up to be Hitler, right? That’s the idea.”
His remarks garnered applause.
5. Sandmann’s Mother is Julie Weis Sandmann & His Father is Ted Sandmann
Julie Weis Sandmann has been the vice president of Relationship Management at Fidelity Investments since 2015 and began her career with Fidelity in 1999 but spent several years in between as a client manager at Paycor.
She’s a graduate of Morehead State University and earned her MBA at Xavier University School Of Business Administration.
The teen’s father is Ted Sandmann, a sales manager for a VT Hackney, a specialty truck body design and manufacturing company.
In his statement, 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.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report identified a woman who had emailed a statement to Heavy as someone believed to be the mother of the Covington Catholic student seen immediately in front of Nathan Philips in the video. Heavy did not identify the woman or her son by name.
Nick Sandmann, a Covington student, has since issued a statement identifying himself as the student shown in front of Phillips. The woman quoted in Heavy’s original report is the mother of a different Covington student, not of Nick Sandmann.
Heavy can confirm that the Covington parent quoted in the report is not Julie Weis Sandmann, Nick Sandmann’s mother.
The statement was falsely attributed in other news reports to Julie Sandmann. Heavy apologizes for the confusion that led to that incorrect attribution.