By now, you've likely seen the video of a teenage boy smiling in the face of a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial, but the story doesn't end there. The recent TODAY interview with the teen whose confrontation with the Native American elder went viral has elicited heated reactions on Twitter. Many have opposed TODAY host Savannah Guthrie's willingness to speak with the young man, while others argue that the entire situation was blown out of proportion.
Nick Sandmann is the teen that can been seen wearing a MAGA hat while engaging with the Native American elder on Friday, according to Vox. Sandmann, 16, and the elder — who has been identified as Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips, according to CNN — had what has been described as a "stand-off" in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as CNN reported. A video of Sandmann appearing to block Phillips' path and smiling has gone viral. After the event, Sandmann released a statement telling his version of events, according to Newsweek, while Phillips was interviewed on CNN sharing his perspective.
On Wednesday, Sandmann sat down with TODAY Show host Guthrie to further clarify his position on the exchange with Phillips, asserting that he had "every right" to stand where he stood. When asked by Guthrie if he felt that he should apologize for the incident, Sandmann said his "position is that [he] was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips." In hindsight, Sandmann told Guthrie that wishes he had walked away from the entire exchange.
TODAY's decision to have Sandmann on the show has sparked passionate responses on Twitter deconstructing the teen's statements.
Along with airing the interview on Wednesday, TODAY has also been posting clips of the interview to its Twitter page. Needless to say, it has elicited reactions. Those opposed to the interview are accusing TODAY of glamorizing his behaviour and "reaching for ratings."
Sandmann stated in his interview that he and his family have been receiving hateful messages and even death threats following the incident on Friday. But still, many on Twitter disagree with TODAY giving Sandmann a platform on the show and suggested people boycott it.
Twitter wasn't just speaking out against TODAY, though. Another common thread was disbelief over what Sandmann was saying. Many responded to the tweets to say that they weren't buying any of it.
However, not everyone is opposed to Guthrie interviewing Sandmann. Specifically, on the NBC News YouTube video posting of the interview, many cast blame on the Black Hebrew Israelites — a group that believe African Americans to be the literal descendants of the Israelites of the Bible, according to The Washington Post. In 2008, the Souther Law Poverty Center argued that some Black Hebrew Israelite groups are becoming "more militant." — who were also reportedly present at the altercation on Friday.
"God bless this kid," one commenter wrote under the video. "Sorry for all the racial abuse you and your friends had to go through by grown adult men calling you 'crackers' and telling you to go back to Europe." Another said, "Black hebrews were cussing up a racist storm. Not a word is said. White kid wearing MAGA hat stands and smiles. Throw him in the woodchipper!!"
Phillips, himself, described the group as being similar to Westboro Baptist Church during his interview with CNN.TODAY will be interviewing Phillips himself about his reaction to the whole ordeal and Sandmann's interview on Thursday.
Regardless of the number of videos that are shared, it is impossible to know the full story without having actually been there. Both Sandmann and Phillips have passionately argued their position, but questions remain nonetheless.