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Story highlights

Rep. John Lewis said of Bernie Sanders' participation in Civil Rights movement, "I never saw him. I never met him"

The Congressional Black Caucus political action committee endorsed Hillary Clinton on Thursday

Washington CNN —  

Democratic Rep. John Lewis on Thursday questioned the extent of Bernie Sanders’ participation in the civil rights movement after an event where the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Sanders has frequently talked up his history as an activist while he was at the University of Chicago in the 1960s and touted his work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. But Lewis, a civil rights icon and leader of SNCC said he never saw Sanders at any events.

“I never saw him. I never met him,” Lewis said. “I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed (the) voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President (Bill) Clinton.”

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment from CNN Thursday.

As Sanders has sought ways to find a foothold among minority voters he has increasingly talked up his past a student activist, including his participation in the March on Washington.

The barb from Lewis comes at a critical moment in the Democratic battle, just hours before Sanders and Clinton take the stage for the last Democratic debate before the Nevada caucuses. It also amounts to a bit of penance for Lewis, who backed out of his endorsement of Clinton in 2008 and threw his support behind then-Sen. Barack Obama.