President-elect Donald Trump began his Saturday morning by attacking Georgia Rep. John Lewis on Twitter, calling the famed civil rights icon “all talk, no action” and saying his predominantly black district in Atlanta is “crime infested” and “falling apart.”
In terms of targets it’s a bad idea to attack on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, John Lewis — the sole surviving member of the Big Six leaders of the civil rights movement who worked closely with Dr. King, and who is now an incredibly respected member of Congress — may at the top of the list.
— Mark DeSaulnier (@RepDeSaulnier) January 14, 2017
— House Democrats (@HouseDemocrats) January 14, 2017
Immediately after Trump lashed out, outrage broke out online among Lewis’ colleagues in Congress. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed their solidarity with Lewis — many of them contrasting Lewis’ storied past with Trump’s offensive behavior and rhetoric, and accusing Trump of ignorance.
“Donald Trump is not worthy of uttering John’s name,” Rep. Jim Hines (D-CT) tweeted. “Cowardly Donald Trump isn’t fit to polish hero John Lewis’ boots,” Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) added.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) January 14, 2017
— Jim Himes (@jahimes) January 14, 2017
— Yvette D. Clarke (@RepYvetteClarke) January 14, 2017
— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) January 14, 2017
— Robin Kelly (@RepRobinKelly) January 14, 2017
— Bonnie WatsonColeman (@RepBonnie) January 14, 2017
— Rep. Joe Crowley (@repjoecrowley) January 14, 2017
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) January 14, 2017
Here's a tip: Instead of attacking civil rights icons like John Lewis, reach out to all the Americans feeling threatened by your presidency. https://t.co/BjRfOAUIgX
— Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) January 14, 2017
In response to Trump’s comments, many members of Congress emphasized Lewis’ long record of service, sacrifice, and leadership.
Lewis endured beatings and arrests while protesting against segregation in the South as a freedom rider and leader of the civil rights group the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNNC). He spoke at the March on Washington. He was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama on what is now known as “bloody Sunday” while leading the march to Montgomery for voting rights.
Since then, he is has spent decades serving in the House of Representatives, where he has continued fighting for civil rights.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 14, 2017
@repjohnlewis is an icon who marched, bled, and worked for civil rights. This MLK Day weekend, he should be honored, not attacked
— Rep. Derek Kilmer (@RepDerekKilmer) January 14, 2017
John Lewis is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement who is fearless in the pursuit of justice and equality. He deserves better than this. https://t.co/WX1QDCKfzP
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 14, 2017
Rep. John Lewis was beaten, bloodied & arrested 40+ times marching for civil rights. He is a true American hero & represents the best of us.
— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) January 14, 2017
"All talk, no action."
— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) January 14, 2017
.@repjohnlewis's actions changed the course of history. His courage and decency are above reproach.
— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) January 14, 2017
— Rep. Salud Carbajal (@RepCarbajal) January 14, 2017
.@RepJohnLewis is American hero & civil rights leader. We are better because of his brave actions. Deeply honored, humbled to serve w him.
— Suzanne Bonamici (@RepBonamici) January 14, 2017
— Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) January 14, 2017
Trump, in what has become a pattern, lashed out at Lewis following criticism. On Friday, Lewis said in an interview that he does not plan to attend Trump’s inauguration, as he thinks that Trump is not “legitimate” because of Russian interference into the election.
Trump’s attack on Lewis echoes earlier attacks on Americans who have sacrificed for the sake of their country, such as Trump’s weeks-long tear against the Khan family, a Muslim family whose son died fighting in the Iraq war, and attack against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who served in Vietnam and spent 5 years as a prisoner of war. Trump obtained 5 draft deferments.
However, Trump’s tweets going after Lewis on Saturday only seem to be garnering him widespread scorn among elected officials. Even those initially critical of Lewis’ stance on boycotting the inauguration, such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), have hit back at Trump on Twitter.
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 14, 2017
If anything, it seems likely that even more members of Congress will now decide to join Lewis in abstaining from Trump’s inauguration. Yesterday the count was at five lawmakers boycotting the inauguration — today it is at 11.
Lewis’ office has declined to comment on Trump’s tweets. In some ways, the lack of engagement makes sense. Some lawmakers noted that after all that Lewis has been through, attacks on Twitter are unlikely to faze him.
Stones and batons couldn't stop @RepJohnLewis's fight for justice. Petty tweets certainly won't.
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) January 14, 2017
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 14, 2017