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Teenager speaks of media ‘war machine’ arrayed against him

“Before I knew what was happening, it was over,” said Nick Sandmann in a speech during the second night of the Republican National Convention.

Sandmann was a high school student from Kentucky who was not expecting to be famous when he joined his classmates on a field trip to Washington D.C. in January of 2019. The students were in town for an annual pro-life event, “The March For Life.” After donning a “Make America Great Again” hat, he found himself in trouble while standing near the Lincoln Memorial.

“The video confirms I was standing with my hands behind my back, and an awkward smile on my face that had two thoughts, one, don’t do anything that might further agitate the man banging a drum in my face. And two, I was trying to follow a family friend’s advice — never to do anything to embarrass your family, your school or your community.”

On that day, a short segment of video went viral. It showed Sandmann face to face with Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist—some would say agitator – shortly after Sandmann and his classmates had been taunted with vulgarities by a group of Black activists. In an instant, the nation was talking about that video with commentators from CNN and the Washington Post attacking Sandmann as the aggressor and an entitled kid of white privilege. As more video emerged days later, it showed that it was Phillips who approached Sandmann, banging a drum in his face as Sandmann stood motionless.   

Facts and details seemed inconvenient for a news media in search of an anti-Trump narrative. Within minutes, sixteen-year-old Sandmann became the target of hatred, vitriol and unwanted fame that ultimately lead him to his speech at the convention.

“What I thought was a strange encounter quickly developed into a major news story complete with video footage. My life changed forever in that one moment,” said Sandmann, who saw himself as a target of opportunity for those with a bigger agenda:

“The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. It did so without researching the full video of the incident. Without ever investigating… motives. Without ever asking me for my side of the story… Because the truth was not important. Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered.”     

Both CNN and the Washington Post have recently settled defamation suits filed against them by Sandmann, who believes the hat is what sealed his fate:

“If advancing their narrative ruined the reputation and future of a teenager from Covington, Kentucky well so be it, that would teach him not to wear a MAGA hat.”

Sandmann also cited “cancel culture,” a reference to the left’s agitation against, and silencing of, people and ideas with which they disagree, as a threat to freedom of speech.

That drew immediate responses from some in the media. Yamiche Alcindor of PBS News Hour, tweeted:

“Nick Sandmann is making the case that President Trump should be re-elected to fight back against cancel culture and against media bias. Context: Trump just called for a boycott of Goodyear tires and has attacked the media for often reporting facts that he doesn’t agree with.”

Critics will likely point out that boycotting a product is different from demanding that a differing opinion be silenced altogether.

Despite many in the press acknowledging that its initial coverage of Sandmann was a mistake, the New York Times seems to retry the original allegations. In its schedule of speakers for the convention, the Times listed Sandmann like this:

“A teenager from a Catholic high school in Kentucky who was involved in a confrontation with a Native American man at a protest last year.”

Sandmann said he hoped the media would reform itself and return to “balanced, responsible, news coverage,” something he says has been missing in the coverage of the current president:

“I know you’ll agree with me when we say no one in this country has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump.”

For a brief moment in January of 2019, Sandmann may have nudged out the president for that distinction.

PHOTO: 2020 Republican National Convention/Handout via Reuters

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