Nicholas Sandmann, teen who faced off with Native American protester in viral video, praises Trump’s battle against ‘cancel culture’

In his speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, Nicholas Sandmann — the Kentucky high school student who was seen in a viral video in a red “Make America Great Again” hat standing in front of a Native American activist outside the Lincoln Memorial last year — accused the media of trying to “cancel” him because of his support for President Trump.

Sandmann, then a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky., was seen facing off silently with Nathan Phillips, a Native American protester. The standoff took place after Sandman and his classmates had participated in the 2019 March for Life.

Trump quickly seized on the incident, praising Sandmann and the other students on Twitter, and using it to attack the “evil” news media. (“Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be,” Trump tweeted.)

“My life changed forever in that one moment,” Sandmann told the convention in a pre-recorded speech from the Lincoln Memorial. “The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without ever researching the full video of the incident, without ever investigating Mr. Phillips’ motives or without ever asking me for my side of the story. And do you know why? Because the truth wasn’t important. Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-Conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered.”

Phillips, an elder of the Omaha people who had just participated in the Indigenous Peoples March, was beating a drum and praying. He said he approached the students because he heard them chanting “build that wall.” 

The “build the wall” shouts were not heard on the video, and Sandmann denied his group participated in them.

In his RNC speech, Sandmann referred to Phillips and other demonstrators as “professional protesters.”

“While the media portrayed me as the aggressor with a ‘relentless smirk’ on my face, in reality the video confirms I was standing with my hands behind my back and an awkward smile on my face that hid two thoughts,” he said. “One, don’t do anything that might further agitate the man banging a drum in my face. And two, trying to follow a family friend’s advice never to do anything to embarrass your family, your school or your community.”

Sandmann’s family sued numerous media outlets for hundreds of millions of dollars alleging defamation over coverage of the viral video. They settled lawsuits with CNN in January and the Washington Post in July. Details of the out of court settlements were not released.

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Donald Trump Jr., speaks as he tapes his speech for the first day of the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with frontline workers in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 24: Kimberly Guilfoyle pre-records her address to the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced the Republican Party to move away from an in-person convention to a televised format, similar to the Democratic Party’s convention a week earlier. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Patricia and Mark McCloskey, a couple from St. Louis who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, addresses the virtual convention in a pre-recorded video broadcasted on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Republican National Committee Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, speaks during the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Donald Trump Jr., speaks as he tapes his speech for the first day of the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Delegates are seated for the first day of the Republican National Convention, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, pool)

The room is set and delegates begin to arrive for the first day of the Republican National Convention, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (Travis Dove/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

President Donald Trump speaks the Republican National Committee convention site, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump (C) speaks with freed hostages (L-R) Pastor Andrew Brunson, Sam Goodwin, Michael White, Joshua and Tamara Holt and Pastor Bryan Nerran in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump (C) speaks with freed hostages (L-R) Pastor Andrew Brunson, Sam Goodwin, Michael White, Joshua and Tamara Holt and Pastor Bryan Nerran in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Pennsylvania congressional nominee Sean Parnell addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 24: Wearing a face mask to reduce the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus, Donald Trump Jr. (R) watches his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle as she pre-records her address to the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Republican Party to move away from an in-person convention to a televised format, similar to the Democratic Party’s convention a week earlier. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Natalie Harp, campaign advisory board member for U.S. President Donald Trump, addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. Rep. Vernon Jones (D-GA) addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with frontline workers in a pre-recorded video broadcasted during the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, nurse practitioner Amy Johnson Ford addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 24: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, surgeon Dr. G.E. Ghali addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. The convention is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic but will include speeches from various locations including Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, DC. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

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“I wouldn’t be cancelled,” Sandmann said in his message to the RNC. “I fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and won a personal victory. While much more must be done, I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage. I know President Trump hopes for that too. 

“I’m proud to say that throughout my media nightmare I have had President Trump’s unwavering support,” the 18-year-old added. “And I know you’ll agree with me when I say no one in this county has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump. In November, I believe this country must unite around a president who calls the media out and refuses to allow them to create a narrative instead of reporting the facts.”

Trump’s record of distorting facts has been well documented. According to the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” database, the president has made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, or roughly 16 per day.

“I believe we must join with a president who will challenge the media to return to objective journalism,” Sandmann said before donning a red “MAGA” hat. “This is worth fighting for. This is worth voting for. This is what President Donald Trump stands for.”

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