PR Firm Covington Catholic Student Hired Also Advised Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney
The family of Nick Sandmann, the student who was made infamous for his smirking smile that he gave as he and fellow students from Covington Catholic high school surrounded and berated a Native American elder, hired a public relations firm that has strong ties to members of the Republican Party.
A video of Covington Catholic students jeering at Nathan Phillips, a Native American who was beating a drum to ease tensions between dueling protests, went viral over the weekend. Sandmann and his classmates were in Washington D.C. to take part in a March for Life protest, donning red “Make America Great Again” hats that some have suggested have racist overtones.
After the video was shared thousands of times, Sandmann’s family sought help from a Louisville, Kentucky-based PR firm called RunSwitch PR, according to reporting from The Slot.
Within a press release that was written from the perspective of Sandmann himself, the teen claimed his refusal to move and respect Phillips — Sandmann is seen in the video grinning within inches of the Native American elder’s face — was because he was “startled and confused” when the drummer entered the crowd.
“I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation,” Sandmann stated in his press release, according to reporting from CNN.
"As far as standing there, I had every right to do so. I don't – I – my position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips," Nick Sandmann told "Today" show host Savannah Guthrie. https://t.co/JcnG0KSwuP
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) January 23, 2019
RunSwitch PR has three senior members on its staff. Among those three, one of them, co-founder of the company Scott Jennings, has strong ties to Republican candidates for office and served for some time within the administration of a Republican president.
Jennings has held a senior position on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Kentucky) re-election campaigns. He’s also served as a senior adviser to Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential run, and worked on Jeb Bush’s failed run for the GOP nomination in 2016.
Jennings also served in “key roles” on former President George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, according to his bio on RunSwitch’s website. From 2005 to 2007, Jennings worked in a governmental role as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Political Director.
Some have been critical of Sandmann’s depiction of his own innocence regarding the incident involving him and his classmates within the viral video. When the longer video was published, some purported it put the entire ordeal in greater perspective.
Yet others said the longer video didn’t demonstrate much difference from the first. Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall explained in a lengthy blog post that the extended video “doesn’t greatly change the substance of what you see on the video.”
“I see no way to reconcile Sandmann’s claims with what’s actually on the video. He can be seen hipping and hawing around Phillips like the rest of the kids just before the stand off,” Marshall wrote.