Guthrie Grills Covington Student: Do You Owe ‘Apology’ for ‘Aggressive’ Behavior?

During an exclusive interview with Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann for NBC’s Today show on Wednesday, co-host Savannah Guthrie interrogated the teenager about his “infamous” altercation with a Native American activist and other left-wing demonstrators at the Lincoln Memorial days earlier. She repeatedly suggested that he and his fellow students were to blame for the incident and even wondered if the “Make America Great Again” hats they wore escalated the situation.

After hyping Sandmann’s “now infamous encounter with a Native American elder” in the segment intro, the taped interview began with Guthrie asking: “Do you feel, from this experience, that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own fault in any way?” After Sandmann explained that he had done nothing wrong and “had every right” to be there, Guthrie breathlessly followed up: “What’s it been like to be at the center of this storm?”

 

 

Talking about the confrontation with Native American activist Nathan Phillips, Guthrie pressed: “Did anyone say, ‘Build the wall’?” Sandmann denied hearing anyone say that: “I never heard anyone say ‘Build the wall’ and I don’t think I’ve seen it in any videos.” The Today show anchor actually confirmed that fact: “After a review of the videos, NBC News could not hear anyone shouting that hot-button phrase...” Despite the lack of evidence, she quickly added that “Phillips claims he heard the teens shout, ‘Build the wall.’”

Minutes later, Guthrie fretted to Sandmann: “Why didn’t you walk away?” She then narrated: “The center of the firestorm, what critics characterize as a smirk, some saying it was an attempt to stare down Phillips.”  The host asserted to the teen: “What some people see is a young kid with a smirk on his face.”

Guthrie demanded: “Have you looked at that video and thought about how it felt from the other’s perspective? In other words, there were a lot of you, a handful of the others. Do you think they might have felt threatened by a bunch of young men kind of beating their chests?” She even argued that Sandmann simply standing in place was an “aggressive” action: “There’s something aggressive about standing there, standing your ground, you both stood your ground, and it was like a stare-down. What do you think of that moment?”

Wrapping up the contentious exchange, Guthrie worried that Sandmann’s choice of hat may have been the real problem: “As for the red 'Make America Great Again' hats that some students were wearing, Sandmann says he bought his that day from a street vendor in Washington. Do you think if you weren’t wearing that hat, this might not have happened or it might have been different?”

In addition to discussing the Covington students’ encounter with Phillips, Guthrie also explained how the whole incident began:

Sandmann and dozens of his classmates had just finished attending an anti-abortion March for Life rally when they converged with five Hebrew Israelites, a radical movement that is “growing more militant” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

She asked Sandmann to describe some of the vile insults hurled at them by the left-wing group. Sandmann replied: “ I heard them call us incest kids, bigots, racists, they called us [bleep].” A clip ran of one of the Hebrew Israelite members shouting the disgusting remarks at the students.

Even after clearly establishing that the students were victims of intense verbal abuse, Guthrie still suggested that they brought it on themselves:

 

 

GUTHRIE: Did you feel threatened at all?

SANDMANN: I definitely felt threatened.

GUTHRIE: There were more of you than them, but you felt like they were stronger?

SANDMANN: They were a group of adults and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen next.

She added: “It’s unclear from the video who actually started the confrontation. Each side believes it was the first to be taunted.”

Continuing to grill Sandmann about the altercation, she wondered: “Do you think it was a good idea to start chanting back at the protesters?” Guthrie then pressed: “Did anyone shout any insults back or any racial slurs back at the group?” Sandmann pushed back: “We’re a Catholic school and it’s not tolerated. They don’t tolerate racism, and none of my classmates are racist people.”

Before airing the interview with Sandmann, Guthrie revealed that “NBC News has sat down with Nathan Phillips three times and heard his side of the story.” After the interview with the student, she promised viewers that Phillips would get a fourth sit-down with the network: “...we’ve interviewed Mr. Phillips a few times, but we invited him again now, in light of this conversation. So I think we’re going to hear from him tomorrow on Today.”

As Media Research Center President Brent Bozell declared on Wednesday, NBC and the rest of the liberal media have perpetrated a “hit job” against the students of Covington Catholic High School. Guthrie’s interview is just the latest example of that hostility, after days of deceptive coverage of the incident.

Here is a transcript of the questions Guthrie posed to Sandmann in the interview aired on the January 23 Today show:

7:31 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to our exclusive interview with Nicholas Sandmann, the Kentucky high school student at the center of this now infamous encounter with a Native American elder. Over the past few days, NBC News has sat down with Nathan Phillips three times and heard his side of the story. And now for the first time, the 16-year-old is saying what he saw.

Do you feel, from this experience, that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own fault in any way?

(...)

GUTHRIE: This morning 16-year-old Nick Sandmann standing by his actions in this moment gone viral. The junior at Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School now the face of this Lincoln Memorial confrontation with Native American elder Nathan Phillips.

What’s it been like to be at the center of this storm?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Sandmann and dozens of his classmates had just finished attending an anti-abortion March for Life rally when they converged with five Hebrew Israelites, a radical movement that is “growing more militant” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

NICHOLAS SANDMANN: They started shouting, you know, a bunch of homophobic, racist, derogatory comments at us.

GUTHRIE: What kinds of things did you hear them say?

SANDMANN: I heard them call us incest kids, bigots, racists, they called us [bleep].

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [HEBREW ISRAELITES]: A bunch of incest babies. A bunch of child molesting [bleep].

GUTHRIE: Did you feel threatened at all?

SANDMANN: I definitely felt threatened.

GUTHRIE: There were more of you than them, but you felt like they were stronger?

SANDMANN: They were a group of adults and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen next.

GUTHRIE: It’s unclear from the video who actually started the confrontation. Each side believes it was the first to be taunted. Sandmann his chaperone gave students permission to shout school chants, an attempt, he says, to drown out the Hebrew Israelites.

Do you think it was a good idea to start chanting back at the protesters?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Did anyone shout any insults back or any racial slurs back at the group?

SANDMANN: We’re a Catholic school and it’s not tolerated. They don’t tolerate racism, and none of my classmates are racist people.

GUTHRIE: Did anyone say, “Build the wall”?

SANDMANN: I never heard anyone say “Build the wall” and I don’t think I’ve seen it in any videos.

GUTHRIE: After a review of the videos, NBC News could not hear anyone shouting that hot-button phrase, but Nathan Phillips claims he heard the teens shout, “Build the wall.”

NATHAN PHILLIPS [JANUARY 19]: Oh, yeah, I heard that.

GUTHRIE: Phillips was with a group of Native Americans coming from an Indigenous People’s March when he can be seen walking between the students and the protesters.

PHILIPS: I intervened and things just escalated from there.

GUTHRIE: Phillips says he was trying to defuse the tense situation. Sandmann says he was confused about Phillips’ motives and why he was there.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Did you feel like he was trying to get somewhere else, to go toward the Lincoln Memorial?

SANDMANN: I’m not sure where he wanted to go. And if he wanted to walk past me, I would have let him go.

GUTHRIE: In that moment, he’s looking at you, you’re looking at him. What’s going through your mind?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Why didn’t you walk away?

(...)

GUTHRIE: The center of the firestorm, what critics characterize as a smirk, some saying it was an attempt to stare down Phillips.

What do you think that looks like?

(...)

GUTHRIE: What some people see is a young kid with a smirk on his face.

SANDMANN: Uh-huh.

GUTHRIE: What would you say for people who see that and are making a judgment about who you are?

SANDMANN: Well, people judge me based on one expression – which I wasn’t smirking, but people have assumed that’s what I have – and they’ve gone from there to titling me and labeling me as a racist person, someone that’s disrespectful to adults. Which they’ve had to assume so many things to get there without consulting anyone that can give them the opposite story.

GUTHRIE: Have you looked at that video and thought about how it felt from the other’s perspective? In other words, there were a lot of you, a handful of the others. Do you think they might have felt threatened by a bunch of young men kind of beating their chests?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Sandmann says he didn’t see others performing what appears to be a tomahawk chop.

There’s something aggressive about standing there, standing your ground, you both stood your ground, and it was like a stare-down. What do you think of that moment?

SANDMANN: I would say Mr. Phillips had his right to come up to me. I had my right to stay there. Our school was slandered by the African-Americans who had called us all sort of things.

GUTHRIE: As for the red Make America Great Again hats that some students were wearing, Sandmann says he bought his that day from a street vendor in Washington.

Do you think if you weren’t wearing that hat, this might not have happened or it might have been different?

(...)

GUTHRIE: The conflict has caught the President’s attention. He tweeted Sandmann and his classmates were “treated unfairly” and “have become symbols of fake news.” Sandmann says he’s appreciative of all the President’s tweets but all the attention has taken a toll.

What’s this been like for you and for your family?

SANDMANN: It’s been terrible. People have threatened our lives.

GUTHRIE: Sandmann says he doesn’t want to live his life in fear and he now hopes to come out of this with a deeper understanding of others.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Well, as mentioned, you know, we’ve interviewed Mr. Phillips a few times, but we invited him again now, in light of this conversation. So I think we’re going to hear from him tomorrow on Today.

(...)

CRAIG MELVIN: It was also nice to hear from that 16-year-old, whose face and that expression that he made for a lot of folks became a symbol of a lot of different things. It was good to hear from him for the first time, since we had heard from Mr. Phillips. It will be good to hear from Mr. Phillips [again].

GUTHRIE: Well, it’s one of those situations where you actually have video, so people are certainly free to make their own judgments about what they think happened here.

(...)

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