Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, who in a widely circulated video faced off with a Native American activist last week on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, said he wishes they "could have avoided the whole thing."
In an exclusive interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, when asked if he felt he owed anyone an apology or saw any fault of his own in the incident, Sandman said: "As far as standing there, I had every right to do so."
Tune in to "Today" on Wednesday for Savannah Guthrie's interview with Nick Sandmann.
Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School, was in Washington with his classmates for the March for Life anti-abortion rally last Friday. He has become the face of the apparent confrontation. Sandmann is seen smiling silently only a foot or two from the face of Nathan Phillips, a prominent activist for indigenous people's causes, who was present for the Indigenous Peoples March.
Sandmann told Guthrie on Tuesday: "My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him, I would like to talk to him."
"I mean, in hindsight, I wish we could’ve walked away and avoided the whole thing," he said.
Video footage from the confrontation shows young men, many of them wearing Make America Great Again hats, appearing to surround a Native American troupe as it performs a song about strength and courage at the Indigenous Peoples March.
Sandmann denounced what he called "outright lies" on Sunday and said he was trying to remain calm to defuse the tense situation.
Covington High School was closed Tuesday "due to threats of violence," the Diocese of Covington and the school said in a statement.
The American Indian Movement Chapters of Indiana and Kentucky, said Tuesday that Phillips was trying to defuse an earlier war of words that erupted between the Catholic students and some Black Hebrew Israelites, and he wound up being disrespected by the kids he tried to defend.
“In the video you can see the boys approaching and surrounding him after he stops moving and that one boy steps up to face him, not the other way around,” the group said. “Their behavior at this point is still a problem, even if they did not create the initial situation. They are seen mocking, laughing at, and disrespecting Nathan Phillips.”