The student at the center of the Lincoln Memorial incident causing nationwide controversy says the confrontation with a Native American protester is being completely misrepresented. In a statement released through a PR firm, Nick Sandmann says he was approached by Nathan Phillips after he started to lead school spirit chants in response to "derogatory insults," including racial taunts, being directed at the group of Covington Catholic High School students by a group of African-American protesters, NBC reports. Phillips "locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face," Sandmann writes. "I never interacted with this protester. I did not speak to him," he writes. "I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves." He says he has received death threats since the Friday confrontation became national news.
"I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse (sic) the situation," the statement says. "I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation," writes Sandmann, who firmly denies that he has "hateful feelings" or that any of the group behaved in a racist manner. He says the group, who were in Washington, DC, for an anti-abortion rally, began the school spirit chants with the permission of chaperones. The New York Times reports that in another online video, the African-American protesters, members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, can be heard shouting insults at both the Native Americans and the Kentucky students. (Phillips says he was trying to keep the peace between the groups. He also says Sandmann, who was wearing a MAGA hat, blocked his way.)