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Covington Catholic Student Says He Was Target of Homophobia, Racism

Nick Sandmann

Interviewed on Today, the student who appeared wearing a MAGA hat in a stand-off with a Native American man said he and classmates were taunted. 

Today host Savannah Guthrie took a solid roasting on social media from the right and the left after she interviewed Nick Sandmann, the 16-year-old Covington Catholic student who appeared wearing a MAGA hat in a stand-off with a Native American elder in a video that went viral over the weekend.

Initial reports alleged that Sandman and other students from Covington Catholic, an all-boys high school in Kentucky, who'd been bused to Washington, D.C., to protest against a woman's right to choose at the March for Life roundly mocked Nathan Phillips, an elder from the Omaha Nation. Later, details emerged that some members of the group the Black Hebrew Israelites shouted homophobic taunts at the Covington boys and that Phillips stepped in to defuse the situation. On Today, Sandmann, who said he respected Phillips but stopped short of saying he should apologize for facing off with the elder, told Guthrie that the Black Hebrew Israelites targeted them with "a lot of hateful things," including "racist" and "homophobic" comments.

"They started shouting a lot of homophobic, racist, derogatory comments at us," Sandmann said on Wednesday's Today.

"I heard them call us incest kids, bigots, racists, faggots," he continued. "I definitely felt threatened."

At that point, a chaperone allegedly told the boys to counter the shouts from the Black Hebrew Israelites with school spirit chants that turned into one of the boys stripping off his shirt and jumping up and down while they all thumped their chests.

That's when Phillips moved toward the Covington Catholic boys to act as a buffer so that the scene would not escalate into violence, he's said in interviews.

Speaking with Guthrie, Sandmann said he could not understand Phillips's intent and so rather than step aside, he faced off with the elder, who was beating his drum along to a Native American chant.

"I just wish he would have walked away, but I knew as long as I kept my composure and didn't do anything that he might perceive as aggressive or elevation of the conflict, that it would hopefully die," Sandmann said of the moment in the video that went viral in which he appeared to be smiling in Phillips's face.

Guthrie asked Sandmann about allegations that he and his classmates in MAGA hats were racist.

"We're a Catholic school and it's not tolerated," Sandmann said. "They don't tolerate racism and none of my classmates are racists."

Watch the interview with Sandmann below

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.