Savannah Guthrie is being criticised for her interviews with 'MAGA teen' Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips

Today/NBC/YouTubeSavannah Guthrie on NBC’s ‘Today.’
  • Some “Today” show viewers are frustrated with the way Savannah Guthrie handled interviews with Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips.
  • Critics said her interview with “MAGA teen” Sandmann was soft and didn’t interrogate his unapologetic narrative about the event, which was issued by a public relations firm.
  • In her interview with Phillips, Guthrie raised questions about his military service during the Vietnam War, which isn’t in dispute.

“Today” show viewers are upset at host Savannah Guthrie’s interview with Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, the two people at the center of a viral encounter that’s become a new battle in the culture war between left and right.

NBC’s morning show is by far the biggest platform the two received to air their views on Friday’s encounter in Washington, DC. Sandmann, a teenage high school student wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap, stared down Phillips a Native American activist who put himself between Sandmann’s classmates and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites jeering the students with racist and homophobic slurs. Sandmann was in the nation’s capital to attend the anti-abortion March for Life, while Phillips was attending the Indigenous Peoples March.

Some viewers saw Guthrie’s interview style as “soft” on Sandmann, and were frustrated by her passivity to Sandmann’s shifting stories.

Sandmann’s family hired RunSwitch PR, a public relations firm, amid his response to the controversy. Though the video shows Sandmann unmoving and staring at Phillips, Sandmann said in a statement issued by the firm that he was trying to “diffuse [sic] the situation.”

Nick sandmann nathan phillips encounterKaya Taitano/Indian Country Today/VimeoNick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips.

In his interview with Guthrie, Sandmann said he smiled to show Phillips that he couldn’t be provoked. But he also said he didn’t walk away in case Phillips wanted to have a conversation with him at that moment.

“Now, I wish I would have walked away. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Mr. Phillips and walk away if he was trying to talk to me,” Sandmann told Guthrie. “But I was surrounded by a lot of people I didn’t know that had their phones out, had cameras, and I didn’t want to bump into anyone or seem like I was trying to do something.”

Read more:
Covington high schooler Nick Sandmann says he wishes he ‘could have just walked away’ from his viral encounter with Native American activist Nathan Phillips

Critics also pointed out that Sandmann offered explanations rather than apologies.

Sandmann’s supporters weren’t satisfied with Guthrie’s interview either. Two popular commentators on the right, conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson and conservative Benny Johnson, criticised her for raising the issue in the first place.^tfw

Nathan Phillips, in his own interview with Guthrie Thursday, said he forgave Sandmann but criticised the teen’s response as being orchestrated by the public relations firm. He said he wasn’t impressed by Sandmann’s comments to Guthrie.

“I was upset I was made to sit down and watch it,” Phillips said. “I got into the first 30 seconds, 40 seconds of it. And I thought, well, that’s all I needed to hear.”

Read more:
‘Coached and written up for him’: Nathan Phillips says Nick Sandmann’s response to his viral encounter wasn’t sincere

Guthrie has also been criticised for asking Phillips about his military service during the Vietnam War, which is not in dispute.

In interviews, Phillips identified himself as a “Vietnam-era” veteran who was not deployed in Vietnam, but figures on the right have falsely accused him of misusing the “Vietnam War veteran” label.

Nonetheless, Guthrie asked Phillips to “clear up” the nature of his service.^tfw

Guthrie’s interviews were criticised from the start, when Guthrie announced her interview with Sandmann would air on Wednesday. Critics asked why she would focus on him, and anticipated she would offer Sandmann a platform to air a public relations-engineered response.

INSIDER has reached out to the “Today” show for comment.

Read more:

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.