President Donald Trump has taken up a stance on the viral video showing a confrontation between a group of high school kids in MAGA hats, and Native American protester and activist, Nathan Phillips.
In a tweet, Trump wrote, “Looking like Nick Sandmann & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false – smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback,” before tagging and seemingly quoting a segment from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
The tweet positions Trump in the camp of students from Covington Catholic High School, who were identified after the video went viral and attracted widespread condemnation online. Nick Sandmann was the teen identified positioning himself in front of Phillips. Sandmann stood in front of him silently for minutes. Sandmann has said his actions were an attempt to diffuse the situation, and that he was not attempting to block his way. Phillips has said Sandmann made clear movements indicating that he was blocking him.
In the initial cut of the video that was circulated, it appeared as if the boys had surrounded the man, and were chanting and mocking him. A separate, longer video that was released Sunday, which revealed new details about the confrontation that put aspects of the initial narrative into a different light.
The video showed that Phillips had actually inserted himself in the middle of a confrontation between the high school group, which was there for the pro-life March For Life, and a group from black Hebrew Israelites — a religious sect — who were recorded hurling insults and slurs at the high school group. In response, the high school group appeared to begin doing chants specific to their school, a claim that Sandmann backed up in his statement. At that point, Phillips stepped into the escalating situation, and the high school group seemed to focus their attention on him as they danced, clapped, chanted, and shouted.
The video doesn’t provide supporting evidence to Phillips’ and another bystander’s claim that he heard the boys chanting, “build that wall,” fueling claims that initial reports misrepresented the group. It’s worth noting, however, that the video is shot at a distance from the group, so it’s possible that aspects of the chants weren’t recorded.
President Trump has a history of mocking Native Americans and supporting right-wing protests. Trump frequently refers to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” to deride her claims of Native American heritage. He also sparked criticism when he supported protesters at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, organized by white nationalist groups, which ultimately claimed one life, claiming that there were “very fine people” there.