Mere days before the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day, President-elect Donald Trump harshly criticized a lawmaker who marched alongside the civil rights leader. After Rep. John Lewis said he didn’t see Trump “as a legitimate president,” the soon-to-be commander in chief hit back, calling the lawmaker “sad!” and saying he should be worrying about his district instead.
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!” Trump wrote in two tweets early Saturday morning.
Trump hit out at Lewis a day after the congressman told NBC News’ Meet the Press that “it’s going to be very difficult” to forge a relationship with Trump because “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.” When asked to explain why, Lewis cited reports of Russia’s election-season hacking. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” Lewis said in the interview set to air Sunday.
Lewis said that his feelings about Trump were so strong that he is not planning to attend the inauguration, which will be “the first one that I miss since I’ve been in Congress.”
The criticism of Trump comes from a very powerful place considering there are are few lawmakers who are as revered as Lewis, a key civil rights leader who was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s and was a driving force behind the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis was so badly beaten during the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” Selma to Montgomery march that his skull was fractured.
The Georgia congressman, who has been representing his Atlanta district since 1987, has been one of the most vocal opponents to Trump and testified this week against Sen. Jeff Sessions, who was nominated to be attorney general.
The Washington Post explains Lewis’ words are a reminder of how long the president-elect questioned President Obama’s legitimacy:
While Lewis didn’t cite allegations of bigotry and racism made against Trump, the whole thing can’t help but hearken back to Trump’s own questioning of the legitimacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. For years, Trump raised questions about whether Obama was born in the United States and thus could serve legitimately as president. Obama eventually produced a birth certificate in 2012, but Trump only acknowledged Obama was born in the United States a few months ago.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were particularly incensed by Trump’s long-running questioning of the legitimacy of the first black president, saying it amounted to bigotry and a racial dog-whistle. After Trump finally admitted Obama was born in the United States in September 2016, members of the CBC held a press conference to denounce Trump.