The Catholic high school student at the center of a viral controversy claimed on Sunday that reports about his apparent confrontation with a Native American man have been filled with "misinformation" and "outright lies."
CNN's Jake Tapper posted a letter on Twitter from the student, identified as Nick Sandmann from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, explaining the incident.
"I am providing this factual account of what happened on Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial to correct misinformation and outright lies being spread about my family and me," Sandmann wrote in the letter.
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
His explanation comes after a video clip passed around social media showing him standing and smiling in front of a Native American protester as some of his Catholic high school peers in the background jeer. Several of the students in the video are wearing "Make America Great Again" hats.
Reports about the video prompted the Diocese of Covington to condemn the students and apologize for their behavior.
Sandmann in the letter wrote that he was "singled out" and approached by the Native American man, who has been identified as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder.
"The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him," Sandmann wrote. "I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face."
"I never interacted with this protester," he continued. "I did not speak to him. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protestors."
Though some reports have claimed that the students were cheering "build the wall" at Phillips and the other Native American protesters, Sandmann said he did not hear comments like that.
Phillips gave a contradictory account to The Washington Post, saying "that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse."
"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 Washington 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.”
Some public figures and lawmakers have weighed in on the viral video, with many claiming the students were racist and disrespectful.
Multiple outlets have written up comments from Sandmann's mother after she blamed the incident on a group of "black Muslims."
Sandmann in the letter wrote that the confrontation began when a group of African-American protesters started hassling the group of students wearing "MAGA" hats.
"When we arrived, we noticed four African American protestors who were also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial," Sandmann wrote. "The protestors said hateful things. They called us 'racists,' 'bigots,' 'white crackers,' 'faggots' and 'incest kids.' " He wrote that the students responded with a school chant of their own.
Then, Sandmann said, the Native American protesters approached the group of Covington high school students.
"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," Sandmann wrote.
Reason, a libertarian magazine, in an article on Sunday reported that full-length footage of the event shows Phillips placed himself between the students and the African-American protesters, who appeared to be yelling at the students.