Just days ahead of his official swearing in, president-elect Donald Trump sparked a firestorm on social media after criticizing Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Lewis a elder statesman of the civil rights movement who endured bloody attacks fighting against segregation and is still a prominent leader in the African-American community was supported by over a dozen elected officials who said they would not attend the inauguration.
The acrimony between the two began late last week after Lewis asserted that Trump was not a “legitimate president” amid reports that the Russian government influenced the outcome of the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. The president-elect fired back on Twitter Saturday evening, telling Lewis to focus on his district and “the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S.”
He went on to assert that the civil rights icon was “all talk talk talk, and no action.”
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2017
Trump’s disparaging remarks about Lewis prompted indignation among African-Americans, a portion of the American constituency already wary of the president-elect due to a number of inflammatory and racially offensive remarks he made during his campaign last year. The fury also was partly fueled by the president-elect’s clear lack of understanding of the importance of the civil rights movement and the adoration African-Americans have for their leaders — especially those like Lewis who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for equal rights.
“I don’t think we have ever had a president so publicly condescending to what Black politics means,” Mark Anthony Neal, an African-American studies professor at Duke University, told The New York Times. “[Trump] doesn’t care that people think the civil rights movement was important. He doesn’t feel the need to perform some sort of belief that it is important.”
Several Democratic leaders were quick to jump to Lewis’ defense following the former reality TV star’s Twitter rant, many of them vowing to boycott next week’s inauguration. The New York Times reported that the congressional lawmakers who have pulled out of Trump’s inauguration will instead meet with activists and plan efforts to resist the president-elect’s incoming administration.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure that accountability is brought to bear on the administration and that our Constitution and nation’s laws are adhered to, as no one is above the law,” Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, who was among those who announced he wouldn’t be attending the inauguration, wrote in a statement.
Others slated to bypass the event include Rep. Barbara Lee of California, Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona, Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, William Lacy Clay of Missouri and Jerrold Nadler and Jose E. Serrano of New York, among others. So far, nearly 25 Democratic leaders have said they’ll boycott Trump’s inauguration Friday, with the numbers still growing.
The president-elect’s harsh words against Lewis also sparked anger among the civil rights leader’s constituents in Atlanta, who asserted that Trump is wrong about their city, which he called “crime infested.” Many Atlantans took to social media this past weekend to criticize Trump’s cluelessness surrounding Atlanta’s thriving neighborhoods and the countless contributions made by Lewis during the civil rights movement, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“John Lewis is an American hero & a national treasure. Period. Full stop,” Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed tweeted.
Aside from the growing boycott of Friday’s inauguration, fallout from the fiery feud between the two leaders has sent sales of Lewis’ best-selling books through the roof, The Washington Post reported. The Georgia congressman’s “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” and “March,” a graphic novel chronicling events of the civil rights movement, were both sold out on Amazon by Sunday. Sales for both novels had skyrocketed a whopping 100,000 percent, according to the AJC.
Not everyone was in Lewis’ corner, however. Trump’s vice-presidential pick Mike Pence on Monday, Jan. 16, said he was very “disappointed” that a prominent civil rights leader like Lewis would question the legitimacy of president-elect Trump.
“I served with John Lewis and I disagree with him on many issues,” Pence told Fox News on Monday. “But I respect the role he’s played in the civil rights movement and the voting rights movement. That’s why I was just so disappointed that he would make the statement that he made suggesting that President-elect Trump is not a legitimate president.
“For someone of John Lewis’ stature to lend credibility to the baseless assertions of those who question the legitimacy of this election is deeply disappointing,” he continued. “I hope he reconsiders it.”
The AJC also reported that Tommy Hunter, a Republican on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, called Lewis a “racist pig” in a lengthy Facebook rant Sunday. The post has since been removed from his page.