News and Commentary

I Asked If Nathan Phillips Believes He Owes Anyone An Apology. Here’s The Response I Received.

When Nick Sandmann, the 16-year-old Covington Catholic High School student, spoke to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, she asked: “Do you feel from this experience that you owe anybody an apology?” and “Do you see your own fault in any way?”

This question came days after video footage showed Sandmann and his fellow students were not acting in the harassing manner they were first accused of over the weekend, and they had not gone up to a Native American protester and harassed him, as he originally claimed.

No one in the left-wing media has asked Nathan Phillips, the Native American protester, if he owes anybody an apology or sees his own fault in any way, even after he initially lied about the encounter and called the teenagers “beasts” and a “lynch mob.”

So, I did.

I had received a press release from the Lakota People’s Law Project for an article earlier today, and decided to ask their press director, Jesse Phelps, if Phillips believed he owed anyone an apology “for his behavior and statements throughout this entire episode.”

Phelps responded, saying he loves “easy questions.”

“Um…the answer is no. He’s an elder who was attempting to diffuse what he perceived as a dangerous situation — an objectively brave move given history both recent and past. He has nothing to apologize for. The kids who performed the tomahawk chop and greeted him with war whoops, on the other hand, most certainly do.”

I followed up by asking if Phelps was sure, considering what Phillips had called the students in print over the past few days. Again, Phelps said “no”:

“From his perspective, they apparently resembled a lynch mob, etc. That is his valid perspective — Native people are confronted with blatant racism, mostly from the right, every day. Given the sad history of this nation—built as it on colonialism, racism, slavery and the ongoing repression of people of color—the behavior of the students, and the gear they chose to wear, it’s not hard to understand—is it? Nevertheless, he went in to make peace.”

Phelps added that Phillips never defended the Black Israelite’s offensive statements and that “no mistake, the things they said to those kids were terrible. Awful.”

Phillips may very well believe — now, after his initial claim that he was just trying to get out of what looked a bad situation — that he was trying to “diffuse” the tension between the Covington Catholic teenagers who were singing school spirit songs and the Black Hebrew Israelites who were hurling racial and other slurs. Sandmann seems to believe he was trying to diffuse an awkward situation by remaining “motionless and calm.”

Both may be correct in their perceptions, and both appear to be wrong about their perceptions of the incident, at least in regard to each other.

Nathan Phillips now wants to meet the students. Nick Sandmann had already said he would be willing to meet. If Sandmann is asked if he should apologize, it’s only fair that Phillips is asked as well.