Nathan Phillips, the Native American elder jeered by a mob of MAGA-hat wearing teens, has a message for the students at the center of what has become a national controversy: Despite their refusal to apologize to him, he still has “forgiveness in [his] heart” for them.
Phillips shared his message of reconciliation on NBC’s Today show with interviewer Savannah Guthrie, one day after she earlier unabashedly rolled out the red carpet for Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School teen whose smirking face has become synonymous with Phillips’ harassment by the teenage horde.
Despite his clear disinterest in, and apparent exhaustion at, some of Guthrie’s more pointedly obnoxious questions, Phillips displayed a genuine thoughtfulness about his encounter with the Covington Catholic students that was sorely lacking in Sandmann’s interview on Wednesday.
“I woke up strong this morning, with a very positive attitude. I had an opportunity to go to a traditional prayer ceremony–that was the other night,” Phillips explained. “Yesterday I woke up with all kinds of good feelings in my heart for all those who’ve been mean to me. I wanna forgive ‘em.”
Why Phillips should have to respond to Sandmann’s trash interview when he was very clearly the one being victimized in the first place is a good question that I leave you to answer for yourselves. When asked about his reaction to Sandmann’s non-apology tour, Phillips said that he was “upset,” before stating the extremely obvious point that Sandmann’s every move following the viral video has been choreographed by a slick—and incredibly well connected—media PR firm.
This, of course, gets to the core of why Sandmann’s interview was such an umbalanced mess. On one hand we have privileged white kid with access to a top-tier spin machine working to convince the public that what they saw with their own eyes wasn’t true. And on the other, a victimized elder relegated to a second-day interview and forced to respond to the narrative put out by a slick PR firm with connections to Mitch McConnell.
After confirming that, yes, he did hear students chanting “build the wall” as they crowded and mocked him, Phillips said that he’d tried to extract himself from the mob but had been too swarmed to move:
We were surrounded. We couldn’t go right, we couldn’t go left, back, y’know. I was still in prayer, still singing, and then I was looking past the crowd. And I took that first step, and the crowd backed up. I took a second step, and the crowd started breaking apart there. And I took a third part, and I actually seen a clear space, I said ‘that’s the space’ and we started going that way. And from somewhere, a clear space, a person was there.
“I was blocked,” Phillips reiterated moments later.
Phillips wound down the interview by telling Guthrie that despite being angry, he still has “forgiveness in my heart for those students, and that forgiveness even goes to those chaperones and those teachers” who should have stepped in to defuse the situation.
You can watch Phillips’ interview with Guthrie below.