Trump dismisses legacy of civil rights hero John Lewis: ‘He didn’t come to my inauguration’

President also repeated his unfounded claim that he has done more for black Americans than anybody else

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 04 August 2020 08:57
Trump points out that John Lewis didn't attend his inauguration

In an interview released on Monday night, Donald Trump said he had never met legendary civil rights leader John Lewis and complained that the congressman had declined to attend many of his presidency’s major events.

During the wide-ranging conversation, which also saw the president dispute reliable coronavirus data and struggle to answer some questions coherently, Axios interviewer Jonathan Swan asked Mr Trump how history would remember Lewis, who at the time was lying in state at the US Capitol.

“I don’t know,” replied Mr Trump. “I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration, he chose – I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.”

“Do you find him impressive?” Mr Swan asked.

“Uh… I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive, I find many people not impressive, but no, he didn’t come to my inauguration, he didn’t come to my state of the union speeches, and that’s okay, that’s his right.

“And again, nobody has done more for black Americans than I have. He should have come. I think he made a big mistake. He should have come.”

Mr Trump was the only living president not to attend Mr Lewis’s funeral.

The president has repeatedly claimed that he has “done more for black Americans” than any other US leader, in one interview conceding he will “take a pass” on Abraham Lincoln, who oversaw the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved people.

Mr Trump is not, however, forthcoming with the details of what precisely he has done, or where he fits in with the civil rights tradition in which Lewis was an icon.

Asked by Mr Swan whether he found Lewis’s legacy impressive, Mr Trump was equivocal. “He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights, but there were many others also.”

The president did, however, give “no objection” to renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama the John Lewis Bridge, as a growing petition of signatures has demanded.

Lewis, who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, was an outspoken critic of Mr Trump’s since before his presidency even began, disputing the legitimacy of his election and calling him “a racist” after reports he referred to Haiti and various African nations as “s***hole countries”.

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