President Donald Trump downplayed the legacy of the late civil rights icon John Lewis in a new interview, instead repeatedly pointing to the Georgia Democrat’s decision to not attend his 2017 inauguration.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration,” Trump said during an interview with Axios on HBO that aired Monday when asked how he thought history would remember Lewis, adding that he probably never met the the late congressman.
“I can’t say one way or the other” Trump said when asked if he thought Lewis was impressive.
“I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive,” he continued. “He didn’t come – he didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my state of the union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right.”
“He should’ve come. I think he made a big mistake,” he said.
Trump’s willingness to hold a grudge against what he perceives as personal slights – even against those who have passed away, such as Sen. John McCain – has been a hallmark of his public image for decades, though as president, it’s remarkable that he would not praise Lewis, who at the time of his passing last month was widely recognized as a hero of the Civil Rights Movement.
News of his death was met with widespread mourning and praise for his accomplishments, and he laid in state in the US Capitol. Trump declined to pay his respects to Lewis.
The Georgia Democrat was vocal in his criticism of Trump, saying ahead of his inauguration that he was not a “legitimate president,” prompting Trump to call the congressman “all talk” and “no action.” Lewis, however, reportedly also didn’t attend George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration, and that didn’t dissuade the 43rd president from honoring Lewis at his funeral.
Pressed about whether he found Lewis’ personal story impressive and what he has done for the country, Trump said in the Axios interview, “He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights, but there were many others also.”
Trump offered support for renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama – where Lewis and other marchers were brutally attacked by police during a voting rights march in 1965, an incident that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” – after the late congressman.
“I would have no objection to it if they’d like to do it, would have no objection to it whatsoever,” the President said.
He also repeated his claim that he’s done more for Black Americans “with the possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln, citing unemployment statistics before the pandemic and executive actions taken on historically black colleges and universities. But his record on race – among other things, he has repeatedly sought to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first Black President, Barack Obama, by pushing the racist conspiracy theory that he wasn’t born in the US, has largely declined to address the grief and rage expressed in the wake of George Floyd’s death, privately referred to some African nations as “s***hole countries” and lambasted protests led overwhelmingly by black NFL players during the National Anthem – has often stoked tensions, and a January Washington Post-Ipsos poll found more than eight in 10 Black Americans believe Trump is racist.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Tuesday said she was “disgusted” by Trump’s comments about Lewis.
“He’s a narcissist and he is delusional. The only person that believes that is him,” Bottoms, a Democrat, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “He’s done nothing for African-Americans in this country, and to speak that in the same sentence as speaking of John Lewis is almost blasphemous.”