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Rand Paul: John Lewis is a 'partisan Democrat'
02:21 - Source: CNN

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Paul says John Lewis is not "immune" to criticism

Kentucky senator wants "repeal and replace" on same day

CNN  — 

Sen. Rand Paul praised Georgia Rep. John Lewis Sunday as a civil rights icon, but said he’s not “immune” to criticism from political opponents.

“John Lewis isn’t in a position where there can’t be a healthy debate. Because he’s a civil rights icon, shouldn’t make him immune” to criticism, the Kentucky senator told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

On Saturday, President-elect Donald Trump responded to Lewis’ questioning of his legitimacy by unleashing a string of attacks on Twitter, calling the Georgia congressman – who was beaten and nearly killed in Selma, Alabama in 1965 while marching for voting rights – “all talk” and “no action.”

Paul added that Lewis is, like his Democratic colleagues, a fair subject for criticism from across the aisle.

“John Lewis is a partisan,” he said. “I have a great deal of respect for him, but he is a partisan and I disagree with him on issues. I should be able to honestly disagree with him and not have it all come back to I have no appreciation for a civil rights icon because of this and I think that’s the part I think somehow is unfair in this.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in a separate interview he was “deeply disappointed” to see Lewis question Trump’s legitimacy.

“Donald Trump has the right to defend himself,” Pence told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “When someone of John Lewis’ stature, someone who is not only an icon in the civil rights movement, but also by somebody who by virtue of his sacrifice on that day we know as bloody Sunday … for someone of his stature to use terms like this – that (Trump) is not a legitimate president – it’s just deeply disappointing to me.”

Pence said he hopes Lewis reconsiders his decision to skip inauguration.

Incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus called Lewis’ comments “incredibly disappointing.”

“We look up to John Lewis and his historic contribution to civil rights and voting rights,” Priebus told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s incredibly disappointing, and I think it’s irresponsible, for people like himself to question the legitimacy of the next United States president.”