Donald Trump claims a MAGA hat-wearing teenager accused of mocking a Native American protester has been “smeared” by the media.
A second video has since emerged, showing the teenagers were also involved in a confrontation with a small group of “Black Hebrew Israelites” prior to the stand-off with Mr Phillips.
Mr Trump took to Twitter on Monday to claim the new footage proved the students had been “treated unfairly” in press coverage of the event.
Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback! “New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American” @TuckerCarlson— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)22 January 2019
“Looking like Nick Sandman [sic] & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback!” he wrote.
“New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American,” the president added, paraphrasing assertions made earlier that day by Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson.
Footage of the rally first circulated online appeared to show the group of teenagers, many dressed in t-shirts and hats bearing Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, mocking Mr Phillips.
The Omaha tribe elder is seen playing a traditional drum as he comes face-to-face with Mr Sandmann, while the teenager smirks back at him.
However, additional video from the protest showed the students had earlier been subject to homophobic and racially-charged abuse from demonstrators identifying as Black Israelites.
Members of the group can be heard calling the pupils “dirty-ass crackers”, “child-molesting f****ts” and “incest babies”.
The new footage then shows Mr Phillips entering the fray to confront the students, in what he claims was an attempt to defuse the situation.
Mr Phillips maintains the teenagers had mocked him and later told CNN he believed they were “looking for trouble” by aiming to gang up on the small group of Black Israelites.
“I was witnessing as it escalated from just two small groups, then the other one just went back and got more people, went back and got more people, went back and got more people until there were over 100 people, maybe 200 young men there facing down what? Four individuals?” he said.
“Why did they need 200 people there other than it’s hate and racism? They had their target. They had their prey.”
In a statement released on Monday, Mr Sandmann insisted he had also been trying to defuse the situation, claiming accusations made against him were “outright lies”.
“I realised everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict,” he added.
Writing to parents, Covington Catholic High School promised to launch an independent investigation and take “appropriate action” over the incident.