The effort to change the narrative surrounding the Native-American man who was taunted by MAGA-hat-wearing white teenagers in a viral video has officially hit overdrive.
News outlets were seemingly trying to villainize Nathan Phillips by doing everything from raising questions about his military service to digging up his criminal records from the 1970s. That was in spite of the fact that his personal past had nothing to do with ringleader Nick Sandmann smirking in Phillips’ face while his fellow MAGA hat-wearing classmates cheered him on.
Phillips appeared Thursday on NBC’s “Today” to give his side of the story after Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student in the video, claimed Tuesday on the show that he was the real victim.
“Even though I’m angry, I still have that forgiveness in my heart for those students,” Phillips told Savannah Guthrie. “I forgive him.”
Phillips criticized Sandmann’s “insincerity, lack of responsibility,” for statements the student made to shift the blame to him.
The incident reportedly happened Friday toward the end of the Indigenous Peoples March near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The video shows the boys surrounding Phillips who was beating a drum while singing the American Indian Movement song that’s used in a ceremony to send the spirits home.
But what captured widespread attention was the image of Sandmann staring at Phillips with a smirk on his face as his classmates cheered him on.
After the video went viral, the boys were widely criticized. But a PR firm hired for Sandmann launched a campaign to defend the boys that apparently worked, based on the overwhelming support the students have received.
Some of those who came to Sandmann’s rescue are very influential. The media, including “Today,” gave him a platform to craft a different narrative about what exactly happened while failing to ask him tough questions. President Donald Trump also threw Sandmann a lifeline by extending a White House invitation that rallied support for the boys from his base. At the same time, the Catholic Church joined the effort with a report that Phillips was among protesters who attempted on Jan. 19 to disrupt the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Concept.
Those aligned with Sandmann have also launched personal attacks on Phillips to damage his credibility. The shots included dredging up Phillip’s criminal arrest records from incidents that happened in the 1970s and raising questions about his military service. A report also surfaced that Phillips allegedly made nearly identical claims against a few college students four years ago. He’s even been accused of lying about the incident to please liberals.
Another category of attacks center on the claim that Phillips is the one who’s guilty of changing the narrative. Sandmann’s supporters claim that Phillips was the aggressor, adding that the students were the ones trying to defend themselves from dangerous Black men. They are also questioning whether the students indeed yelled, “build that wall” as reports of the incidents have said.