There is no denying the impact John Lewis had on the civil rights movement. Lewis attended segregated public schools as a child in Alabama. As a young adult, he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. He took part in Freedom Rides and marches, during one of which he was the victim of a severe beating at the hands of the Alabama State Police on March 7, 1965, also known as ‘Bloody Sunday.’ This is all true and it is admirable and courageous. Moreover, Congressman Lewis without a doubt has the respect of his constituents, as he has only once received less than 70% of the vote since his first election to the House of Representatives in 1986.
That said, Lewis is a man with flaws like any other. He’s not a saint, and the role he had in The Civil Rights movement does not mean he is now immune to being criticized.
Lewis is fond of grandstanding for the sake of doing so. He called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush when he learned Bush authorized the NSA to conduct wiretaps without a warrant. In what can we’ll kindly call a rare oddity, Lewis never suggested President Obama be impeached for doing the same thing as President Bush. During the Benghazi hearings, Lewis was not interested in getting to the truth of what happened on that day. He was too busy acting as a surrogate for the Clinton campaign.
Recently, Lewis was talking about President-elect Trump and said the following:
“I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd in a clip released Friday. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
Lewis — an ally of Martin Luther King Jr. who was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 while marching for civil rights — also said he planned to skip Trump’s inauguration next week, which he said would be the first ceremony he would not attend since coming to Washington. He was elected to Congress in 1986.
Lewis’s comments are far over the line and are not only disrespectful to Donald Trump and voters, but the office of the President as well. Not to mention the integrity of our elections. It’s outrageous to suggest Donald Trump didn’t win legitimately, no matter how one feels about him. As has been said, the Russians did not keep Hillary Clinton from spending more time campaigning in rust belt states where she lost. The bottom line is, John Lewis owes Donald Trump an apology. If Lewis wants to wade in a shallow pool of his self-righteousness by not attending the inaugural ceremony, he is fee to do so.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump possesses the self-control of an 8-year-old and therefore, he responded like an 8-year-old on Twitter instead of just letting Lewis’s comments stand.
While Trump’s comments were absurd, they were no worse than what Lewis said. Naturally, the responses towards Trump were rivers of pure outrage because, apparently, no one is allowed to criticize the civil rights icon for any reason. Notice that when they address what Trump said, their only defense is to remind people of Lewis’s civil rights activities:
Cornell William Brooks, the president of the NAACP, said Trump’s remarks were disrespectful and called on him to apologize.
“By disrespecting @repjohnlewis, @realDonaldTrump dishonored Lewis’ sacrifice & demeaned Americans & the rights, he nearly died 4. Apologize,” Brooks tweeted, including an image of a bloodied Lewis taken during the Civil Rights Era.
Donna Brazile, the interim head of the Democratic National Committee, denounced Trump’s remarks and said at a DNC gathering in Phoenix that Lewis “took action.”
“He took action from marching from Selma to Montgomery. He took action in marching toward men wielding clubs across the Pettus Bridge. They fractured his skull because of the color of his skin. But John Lewis never stopped marching for justice and equality for all people,” she said.
Notice what they don’t do is address what Congressman Lewis said.
Lewis dishonored the office of the Presidency and the peaceful transfer of power that has taken place in the United States since this country’s birth. Lewis also dishonored the people who work hard around the country to ensure our elections are carried out fairly and impartially by suggesting, without any evidence, Russians tipped the balance to Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Yes, Lewis is a civil rights icon. No, it doesn’t give him license to say whatever he wants without consequence or even response. You can be righteous and still be wrong.