The White House defended the group of Covington Catholic school students, who were visiting the capitol from Kentucky to attend the annual anti-choice March For Life rally, after it was alleged they had provoked the Native Americans, who were there to attend the Indigenous Peoples March.
“The idea anybody could take joy in the destruction of young kids is absolutely outrageous to me,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday morning. “That’s exactly what we saw members of the media and other leaders do.”
The students — donning “Make America Great Again” hats and other Trump campaign gear — are seen in the initial viral video standing in front of a Native American elder as he beats a drum, shouting their school chant and jumping while recording indigenous activists.
A later video showed African-American Israelites confronting the students and Native Americans, however, hurling profanities and obscenities at both groups.
The videos – which initially sparked swift backlash against the school students and Nick Sandmann, one of the teenagers seen standing in front of a Native American in the recording as he smirks and refuses to budge – have since started a debate online over the consequences of immediately reacting to viral information.
Mr Sandmann addressed the videos in an interview with Today’s Savannah Guthrie, saying, “As far as standing there, I had every right to do so … my position is that I was not disrespectful.”
“I mean, in hindsight, I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing, but I can’t say that I’m sorry,” he continued.
The White House has linked the backlash to its frequent criticisms of the news media, with the president lambasting outlets’ coverage of the developments as “fake news”.
“These are kids,” Ms Sanders continued, “that were put in a very tough position and actually handled it very well.
“The president has shown his support through tweets for these kids and would certainly be open to having them here after the government opens.”
Mr Trump praised Mr Sandmann and his fellow students in a tweet on Tuesday, writing, “Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be.”
“They have captivated the attention of the world, and I know they will use it for the good – maybe even to bring people together,” he continued. “It started off unpleasant, but can end in a dream!”
The White House did not immediately respond to enquiries.