'I don't feel guilty,' the 'Birth of a Nation' filmmaker tells Anderson Cooper
In Nate Parker’s first television interview about the 1999 rape case that has plunged him and his new movie The Birth of a Nation into controversy, the filmmaker and actor will not apologize for the night in question.
In excerpts from Parker’s upcoming 60 Minutes appearance, set to air Sunday, he tells Anderson Cooper he was falsely accused of sexual assault and then vindicated in court.
Asked if he feels guilty about anything that happened on the night at the center of the case, Parker says, “I don’t feel guilty.”
When Cooper subsequently asks if Parker feels he did something morally wrong, he replies, “As a Christian man, just being in that situation, yeah, sure. I’m 36 years old right now, and my faith is very important to me. So looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like it’s not the lens that I had when I was 19 years old.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Parker says it would be unfortunate if people shunned his new film — which tells the story of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion — because of his own past. “I think that Nat Turner, as a hero, what he did in history, is bigger than me,” he tells Cooper. “I think it’s bigger than all of us.”
In 1999, Parker and Penn State roommate Jean Celestin (who has a story credit on Birth of a Nation) were charged with raping a fellow student while she was unconscious after a night of drinking. Parker was acquitted; Celestin was convicted, but the verdict was later overturned because he received an ineffective defense. Celestin did not receive a new trial.
Details of the case resurfaced this year after Birth of a Nation became a Sundance sensation, sold to Fox Searchlight, and approached its Oct. 7 release date as an awards-season hopeful. The story took another turn last month when Variety reported that Parker’s accuser took her own life in 2012.
Parker expressed “profound sorrow” upon learning of her death, a sentiment he echoes in the 60 Minutes interview. “I was devastated,” he says. “It was shocking. I couldn’t believe it.”
60 Minutes airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS. Watch a clip from Parker’s interview below.