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Nicholas Sandmann, teen who faced off with Native American protester in viral video, praises Trump's battle against 'cancel culture'

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
·4 min read
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In his speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, Nicholas Sandmann — the Kentucky high school student who was seen in a viral video in a red “Make America Great Again” hat standing in front of a Native American activist outside the Lincoln Memorial last year — accused the media of trying to “cancel” him because of his support for President Trump.

Sandmann, then a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky., was seen facing off silently with Nathan Phillips, a Native American protester. The standoff took place after Sandmann and his classmates had participated in the 2019 March for Life.

Trump quickly seized on the incident, praising Sandmann and the other students on Twitter and using the standoff to attack the “evil” news media.

“Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be,” Trump tweeted.

Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, stands in front of Nathan Phillips, a Native American protester, in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2019. (Photo: Kaya Taitano/Social Media/via Reuters)
Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, stands in front of Nathan Phillips, a Native American protester, in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2019. (Kaya Taitano/social media/via Reuters)

“My life changed forever in that one moment,” Sandmann told the convention in a prerecorded speech from the Lincoln Memorial. “The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without ever researching the full video of the incident, without ever investigating Mr. Phillips’s motives or without ever asking me for my side of the story. And do you know why? Because the truth wasn’t important. Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered.”

Phillips, an elder of the Omaha people who had just participated in the Indigenous Peoples March, was beating a drum and praying. He said he approached the students because he heard them chanting “Build that wall.”

The "Build the wall" shouts were not heard on the video, and Sandmann denied that his group participated in them.

In his RNC speech, Sandmann referred to Phillips and other demonstrators as “professional protesters.”

“While the media portrayed me as the aggressor with a ‘relentless smirk’ on my face, in reality the video confirms I was standing with my hands behind my back and an awkward smile on my face that hid two thoughts,” he said. “One, don’t do anything that might further agitate the man banging a drum in my face. And two, trying to follow a family friend’s advice never to do anything to embarrass your family, your school or your community.”

Sandmann speaks during the virtual Republican National Convention on Tuesday. (Screengrab via Reuters TV)
Nicholas Sandmann at the virtual Republican National Convention on Tuesday. (Screengrab via Reuters TV)

Sandmann’s family sued numerous media outlets for hundreds of millions of dollars alleging defamation over coverage of the viral video. They settled lawsuits with CNN in January and the Washington Post in July. Details of the out-of-court settlements were not released.

“I wouldn’t be canceled,” Sandmann said in his message to the RNC. “I fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and won a personal victory. While much more must be done, I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage. I know President Trump hopes for that too.

“I’m proud to say that throughout my media nightmare I have had President Trump’s unwavering support,” the 18-year-old added. “And I know you’ll agree with me when I say no one in this county has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump. In November, I believe this country must unite around a president who calls the media out and refuses to allow them to create a narrative instead of reporting the facts.”

Trump’s record of distorting facts has been well documented. According to the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” database, the president has made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, or roughly 16 per day.

“I believe we must join with a president who will challenge the media to return to objective journalism,” Sandmann said before donning a red “MAGA” hat. “This is worth fighting for. This is worth voting for. This is what President Donald Trump stands for.”

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