Nate Parker doubled down on his innocence and refused to apologize for the college rape trial that has shrouded his movie “The Birth of a Nation” in controversy during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” with Anderson Cooper on Sunday.
“Do you feel guilty about anything that happened that night?” Cooper asked Parker, referring to the night in 1999 when Parker and Jean Celestin, his former Penn State roommate and “Birth of a Nation” co-writer, were accused of raping a fellow Penn State student.
“I don’t feel guilty,” Parker replied. When pressed further by Cooper, who asked if he believes he did anything “morally wrong,” Parker answered, “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. You know, so looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like it’s not the lens that I had when I was 19 years old.”
Parker got emotional when Cooper asked if the director had anything to apologize for. He addressed the fact that his accuser killed herself in 2012, which was revealed in a Variety story published in August, and said it’s “tragic, so much of what’s happened. And the fact that the family’s had to endure with respect to this woman not being here.”
“But, you know, at some point I have to say it,” he went on, choking up. “You know, I was falsely accused. You know, I went to court. And I sat in trial. You know, I was vindicated. I was proven innocent. I was vindicated. And I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. You know, I feel terrible that, you know, her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is — no.”
While Parker was acquitted in the 2001 trial, Celestin was convicted of sexual assault. The charge was overturned four years later by a Superior Court judge, and never went to retrial because witnesses had moved away. Parker said he was surprised by the criticism he had received for continuing to associate with Celestin.
“The reality is Jean went to jail for something he did not do,” he said. “So when it came time to write this story I said, ‘Well, you want to help with this?'”
Parker also addressed the fact that “Birth of a Nation,” the story of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, takes fictional liberties.
“There’s never been a film that was 100% historically accurate,” he said. “That’s why they say based on a true story and doesn’t say, ‘A true story.'”
“Birth of a Nation” will be released wide on Friday by Fox Searchlight.