- President Donald Trump has come out in support of Nick Sandmann and other students involved in a viral confrontation with a Native American protester.
- The video initially caused widespread outrage, but a longer version revealed new details about the story that have some rethinking the situation.
- Trump has frequently mocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Native American heritage by calling her “Pocahontas.”
- The president has also been hesitant to criticise those thought to support him, most notably in August 2017 when he said there were “very fine people” at the white-nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
President Donald Trump has taken up a stance on the viral video showing a confrontation between a group of high-school kids wearing his “Make America Great Again” hats and a Native American activist.
“Looking like Nick Sandmann & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false – smeared by media,” Trump said on Twitter. “Not good, but making big comeback!”
In the initial cut of the video that was circulated online, it appeared as if the high schoolers had surrounded the Native American activist Nathan Phillips and were chanting and mocking him.
The tweet positions Trump in the camp of students from Covington Catholic High School, some of whom were identified after the video went viral and attracted widespread condemnation online. Among them was Nick Sandmann, identified as the teen seen positioned in front of Phillips who appeared to block his path, smiling while wearing a hat bearing Trump’s campaign slogan.
A separate, longer video that was released Sunday, however, revealed new details about the confrontation that put aspects of the initial narrative into a different light.
The video showed that Phillips had actually inserted himself in the middle of a confrontation between the high schoolers, who were in Washington for the anti-abortion March for Life, and a group of black men thought to be Hebrew Israelites, who were recorded hurling insults and slurs at the high-school group.
Sandmann has said that he was confused why Phillips approached him and that he stood his ground as a way to try to diffuse the situation and not to block Phillips’ path.
Eventually, the high schoolers appeared to begin shouting school chants. In a statement, Sandmann said they did so to counter the insults being directed at them by the Hebrew Israelites.
The video doesn’t support claims by Phillips and another bystander that he heard the boys chanting “Build that wall,” fuelling claims that initial reports misrepresented the high schoolers. The video was shot at a distance from the group, however, so it’s possible that aspects of the chants weren’t recorded. It did show some of the boys appearing to perform the tomahawk chop, a gesture popular at sporting events that many Native Americans find offensive.
Trump has a history of mocking Native Americans and has appeared reluctant to criticise those who might support him. He frequently refers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” to deride her claims of Native American heritage. He sparked some of the most pointed criticism of his presidency when he resisted calls for him to condemn white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying there were “very fine people” there.