Covington student lying, but I want to forgive - Native American elder

The Native American elder at the centre of the Covington racism controversy says while he's still angry, he has forgiveness in his heart.

Last week's confrontation between the elders, Covington Catholic High School students and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites at Washington DC split opinion.

The initial reaction saw criticism piled on the students, mainly white and many of them wearing 'Make America Great Again' hats - which anti-Trump actress Alyssa Milano described as "the new white hood", in reference to the infamous clothing worn by members of hate group the Ku Klux Klan.

But conservative media in the US has sought to flip that narrative on its head, saying it was either the elders or the Black Hebrew Israelites that started the stand-off, which ultimately ended peacefully.

Nathan Phillips, the elder seen banging a drum and chanting face-to-face with a grinning student in a MAGA hat, says he was trying to diffuse tensions.

"Even though I'm still angry, I still have forgiveness in my heart for those students," Mr Phillips, 64, told NBC's Today, adding that he'd received death threats since the video went viral.

"Yesterday I woke up with all kinds of good feelings in my heart. For all those who've been mean to me, I want to forgive them."

Mr Phillips said Nicholas Sandmann, the teenager he was face-to-face with, should apologise nonetheless. He said the teen deliberately stood in his way as he tried to pass through the group, and there were "intentional falsehoods" in the statement the teenager released in his own defence.

Mr Sandmann appeared on Today the day before, and said he wished he'd just walked away from the whole thing.

"They provoked us into a peaceful response of school spirit," he said.

"My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr Phillips. I respect him. I'd like to talk to him."


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