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'I Respect Him. I'd Like To Talk To Him': Nick Sandmann Talks Encounter With Nathan Philips

nick sandmann savannah guthrie
"Sitting down with Nicholas Sandmann - the student at the center of the protest controversy at the Lincoln Memorial. Airs tomorrow on @TODAYshow," 'Today' host Savannah Guthrie tweeted Jan. 22.

Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School junior at the center of a controversial viral video encounter with Native American Elder Nathan Phillips, went on NBC's 'Today' show Wednesday to defend his actions. 

When host Savannah Guthrie asked Sandmann whether he felt he owned anyone an apology, Sandmann replied, "My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I'd like to talk to him," he said, adding, "in hindsight, I wish we could've walked away and avoided the whole thing." 

But he also said he couldn't say that "I'm sorry for listening to him and standing there." 

NBC News said Phillips did not respond to its request for a response to Sandmann's comments, but noted that he has agreed to sit down with 'Today' for an interview to air Thursday morning. 

The problem first arose when the students gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, apparently waiting for their bus after attending the pro-life March for Life. Some students, including Sandmann, were wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, a slogan of President Donald Trump that many find divisive. They had previously been engaged with a racially charged back-and-forth with a small group of Black Hebrew Israelites; that's when Phillips says he stepped in to diffuse the situation. 

"I intervened and things just escalated from there," Phillips said in previous interviews. He told the Washington Post that he felt threatened and that the boys swarmed around him

As for his alleged smirk, Sandmann echoed what he had said in a previously released statement. "I see it as a smile, saying that this is the best you're going to get out of me," he said. "You won't get any further reaction of aggression. And I'm willing to stand here as long as you want to hit this drum in my face." 

"People have judged me off of one expression," Sandmann continued. "...And they've gone from there to titling me and labeling me as a racist person, someone that's disrespectful to adults, which they've had to assume so many thing to get there without consulting anyone that can give them the opposite story." 

WVXU visited both Covington Catholic High School and the Covington Diocese Tuesday morning but was turned away at both places. 

Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.