Nicholas Sandmann Covington Catholic student confrontation

(Image source: YouTube)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said he is standing by his controversial comments about the weekend confrontation involving Kentucky students in Washington, D.C.

The Democrat from Louisville was reacting to initial media reports about the clash at the Lincoln Memorial. Students from Covington Catholic High School, some wearing Make America Great Again hats in support of President Trump, seemed to be mocking a Native American activist.

Yarmuth tweeted this at 10:28 a.m. Sunday:

Yarmuth said Monday that the post was meant to be a joke.

“It was pretty obvious that in no way should anyone take it literally that I would propose banning somebody from wearing a hat,” Yarmuth said. “That's crazy, and I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment. I would never propose that.” 

But Yarmuth critics said the joke was not funny.

“I find it distasteful for an elected official to call for the limiting of constitutional rights, even as a joke,” said Jim Stansbury, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party.

Yarmuth is not backing down even after additional video and eyewitness accounts paint the students as victims, not antagonists.

“I believe these kids acted inappropriately, whether they were provoked or not,” Yarmuth said. “And, again, I was trying to have a little fun with the MAGA hats.”

Yarmuth said the wording of the tweet intentionally used the language Trump used when he proposed banning travel from some Muslim countries.

Stansbury said Yarmuth should have held off before taking to social media.

“We need to wait and make sure you've got the whole story before you tweet, before you put it on Facebook, before you report it,” he said.

Yarmuth does agree that, in the current political climate, social media can be a dangerous place.

“I don't think there's any question about that,” Yarmuth said. “That's particularly dangerous for someone in my position, because the world expects you to have an immediate comment, and a lot of times, you're commenting without full information.”

Yarmuth tried to clarify his comments in a series of follow-up tweets. He said he has no plans to delete his posts.

“I stand by what I say, and if I change my mind, I say publicly that I made a mistake," he said. "I'm not ready to do that yet."

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.