WCPO initially reported Nathan Phillips is a Vietnam veteran, mirroring national coverage from outlets such as the New York Times and CNN. These outlets, in turn, received the information from the Lakota Law Project and Indigenous Peoples Movement.
This is not true. Phillips served in the Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam era but was never deployed overseas. WCPO regrets this error and has corrected it in the below story.
CINCINNATI — Online videos showing students from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, appearing to confront and mock members of the Indigenous People's March in Washington, D.C., on Friday have stirred up controversy that has echoed nationwide.
Many videos showing multiple angles and moments throughout the altercation have surfaced in the days since, showing different perspectives of the same event and raising questions — and more controversy — about who acted inappropriately and what exactly was inappropriate.
The video that started it all showed Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann standing calmly, with a smile on his face, as Nathan Phillips, a member of the Indigenous People's March, played a hand drum. Other videos show the group from the Indigenous People's March approaching the CovCath students unprovoked. Still others show the involvement of another group of African-American demonstrators engaging with the students, and allegedly shouting inflammatory, racially-based statements their way before Phillips approached.
WCPO has obtained a statement from Sandmann, who is a junior at Covington Catholic. This statement was originally obtained and verified by CNN.
Just in: Statement of Nick Sandmann, Covington Catholic High School junior, about the event at the Lincoln Memorial: pic.twitter.com/PkuMh2cVZM
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 20, 2019
"When we arrived, we noticed four African American protesters who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial," Sandmann said in the statement. "I am not sure what they were protesting, and I did not interact with them. I did hear them direct derogatory insults at our school group." The group Sandmann refers to can be seen in some videos. Sandmann goes on to say that the protesters hurled "hateful" insults their way, as the students waited for their bus to arrive.
According to Sandmann, the students began to chant school spirit songs to drown out the insults coming from the other group.
"After a few minutes of chanting, the Native American protesters, who I hadn't previously noticed, approached our group," he said. "The Native American protesters had drums and were accompanied by at least one person with a camera."
However, Phillips told the Washington Post prior to Sandmann releasing his statement that he and other activists from the indigenous rights movement were wrapping up their march and preparing to leave when he noticed tensions escalating between participants from the March for Life rally and people from the indigenous crowd, with the students taunting them.
Phillips is an Omaha Nation elder and veteran. He said the students were chanting "Build that wall, build that wall."
"It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: 'I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,'" Phillips told the Post. "I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat."
"I have read that Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the United States Marines," Sandmann's statement reads. "I thank him for his service and am grateful to anyone who puts on the uniform to defend our nation. If anyone has earned the right to speak freely, it is a U.S. Marine veteran."
Park Hills police said the school has received threats since the incident. They're looking into them to see if they're legitimate.
"I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family's name," the statement reads. "My parents were not on the trip, and I strive to represent my family in a respectful way in all public settings."