Nathan Phillips, the former Native Youth Alliance director whose encounter with a teen wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat was captured in a controversial viral video, appeared on the "Today" show Thursday to tell his side of the story.
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The polarizing clip showed Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, grinning and standing inches away from Phillips during the Indigenous Peoples March on Friday. Phillips can be seen drumming and chanting in the clip.
Although critics said Sandmann was smirking at and taunting Phillips in the video, Sandmann denied those claims in a "Today" show interview that aired Wednesday. He also said he never heard anyone yell, "Build the wall," at Phillips.
But Phillips told "Today" host Savannah Guthrie on Thursday that he did hear the students shout the phrase.
He added that he was "upset" after watching Sandmann's interview and reading his earlier statement.
"Coached and written up for him – insincerity, lack of responsibility – those are the words I came up with," Phillips told Guthrie. "But then I went to go pray about it, and then I woke up ... with this forgiving heart, so I forgive him."
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When asked if he wishes he had just walked away, Phillips said: "That's what I was trying to do."
Phillips also said he, like Sandmann, has received death threats in wake of the incident.
"You know, I didn't have any problems until the students started saying that they were getting death threats, and then as soon as that happened, it started happening with me," Phillips said.
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