On MLK Day weekend, Trump smears civil rights hero John Lewis as a slumlord

Trump attacked Lewis for being “all talk, no actions.”

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Early Saturday morning, President-elect Donald Trump attacked the Georgia congressman and famed civil rights hero John Lewis for being “all talk, no action” and presiding over a “crime infested” district that’s “falling apart.”

The thinly veiled racial smear — essentially suggesting Lewis is a slumlord — came on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as the nation prepares to honor the civil rights leader with whom Lewis worked closely in the 1960s to advocate for racial and economic justice.

Trump’s assertion that Lewis is presiding over a failing and crime-ridden district is not true. The predominantly black district represented by Lewis includes very nice parts of Atlanta and its suburbs that can hardly be described as in “horrible shape.” Since 2009, crime has fallen by 30 percent.

Trump — who frequently uses his Twitter platform to lash out against his critics — was responding to recent comments from Lewis saying that he does not see the president-elect as “legitimate” because of apparent Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process,” Lewis told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd in an interview set to air on Sunday morning.

The Georgia congressman does not plan on attending Trump’s inauguration next week. He’s among a handful of Democratic lawmakers who say they’ll boycott the event, including Reps. Barbara Lee (CA), Luis Gutiérrez (IL), Jared Huffman (CA), and Katherine Clark (MA).

It’s hard to imagine two politicians with temperaments as disparate as Trump and Lewis. While Trump is inexperienced in government, prone to ad hominem attacks, and holds policy positions offensive to communities of color, Lewis is a widely respected lawmaker with decades of commitment to civil rights and public service who’s regarded as a hero.

After Trump’s tweets, some prominent people in government and politics immediately came to Lewis’ defense.

“Rep. John Lewis is a hero and I’m lucky to call him a colleague. You sir are not half the man he is,” Brendan Boyle, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, tweeted in response.

Democrats aren’t alone here. Conservative commentator Matt Mackowiak also spoke up to disagree with Trump, calling Lewis “honest, decent, heroic, and respected.” And Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, tweeted that “John Lewis and his ‘talk’ have changed the world.” Sasse has previously described Lewis as one of his “heroes.”