WASHINGTON (AP) — A Kentucky teenager known for video of his interaction with a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial last year said Tuesday that the “full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode” against him without knowing all the facts.
Nick Sandmann told the virtual Republican National Convention that he believes news outlets were driven by “anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Donald Trump" bias in reporting on the incident.
“And if advancing their narrative ruined the reputation and future of a teenager from Covington, Kentucky, well, so be it,” Sandmann said in a pre-recorded message from the Lincoln Memorial.
He was among the students from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, who participated in an anti-abortion march in Washington in January 2019. Sandmann said that after the demonstration, he purchased and donned a red “Make America Great Again” cap “because our president, Donald Trump, has distinguished himself as the most pro-life president in the history of our country.”
The students were on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when footage showed Sandmann in his cap and interacting with Nathan Phillips, who was participating in a separate demonstration supporting Native American rights. It spread quickly online.
Both Sandmann and Phillips later said they were trying to defuse tensions among groups that had held competing demonstrations. Video of the encounter showed Sandmann and Phillips standing very close to each other, with Sandmann staring, and at times smiling, at Phillips as Phillips sang and played a drum.
Sandmann on Tuesday said that he was mistakenly portrayed as “the aggressor with a ‘relentless smirk’ on my face.” Sandmann said that he actually kept his hands behind his back and smiled so as not to “further agitate” Phillips, or embarrass his family or school.
Sandmann later settled lawsuits he filed against CNN and other media outlets. At the convention, he blamed the rush to judgment against him on “cancel culture,” which Trump and some Republicans have cast as a phenomenon pushed by Democrats that seeks to eradicate non-politically correct aspects of American life.
“But I would not be canceled,” said Sandmann, who pulled on a red “Make America Great Again” cap as he finished his address. “I fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and I won a personal victory.”
He spoke on the same night as first lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the convention focused on many hot-button issues, including abortion and Middle East policy, and portrayed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as too extreme to win November’s election.
Still, Sandmann's appearance, and that of speakers like Maine lobster fisherman Jason Joyce and Mark and Patricia McCloskey — the white couple facing felony charges for waving guns during a recent Black Lives Matter protest in St. Louis — have offered a GOP counter to some of the everyday Americans who spoke via the internet during last week's Democratic National Convention.
Those praising Biden included New York security guard Jacquelyn Brittany, whose interaction with the former vice president in an elevator went viral, and Kristin Urquiza, whose Trump-supporting father died of coronavirus. Brayden Harrington, 13, talked about working to overcome his stutter with support from Biden, who had a severe stutter himself as a child.