In his speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, Nicholas Sandmann — the Kentucky high school student who was seen in a viral video in a red “Make America Great Again” hat standing in front of a Native American activist outside the Lincoln Memorial last year — accused the media of trying to “cancel” him because of his support for President Trump.
Sandmann, then a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky., was seen facing off silently with Nathan Phillips, a Native American protester. The standoff took place after Sandman and his classmates had participated in the 2019 March for Life.
Trump quickly seized on the incident, praising Sandmann and the other students on Twitter, and using it to attack the “evil” news media. (“Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be,” Trump tweeted.)
“My life changed forever in that one moment,” Sandmann told the convention in a pre-recorded speech from the Lincoln Memorial. “The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without ever researching the full video of the incident, without ever investigating Mr. Phillips’ motives or without ever asking me for my side of the story. And do you know why? Because the truth wasn’t important. Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-Conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered.”
Phillips, an elder of the Omaha people who had just participated in the Indigenous Peoples March, was beating a drum and praying. He said he approached the students because he heard them chanting “build that wall.”
The “build the wall” shouts were not heard on the video, and Sandmann denied his group participated in them.
In his RNC speech, Sandmann referred to Phillips and other demonstrators as “professional protesters.”
“While the media portrayed me as the aggressor with a ‘relentless smirk’ on my face, in reality the video confirms I was standing with my hands behind my back and an awkward smile on my face that hid two thoughts,” he said. “One, don’t do anything that might further agitate the man banging a drum in my face. And two, trying to follow a family friend’s advice never to do anything to embarrass your family, your school or your community.”
Sandmann’s family sued numerous media outlets for hundreds of millions of dollars alleging defamation over coverage of the viral video. They settled lawsuits with CNN in January and the Washington Post in July. Details of the out of court settlements were not released.
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