Trump criticizes John Lewis for skipping his inauguration

Representative John Lewis.
Representative John Lewis.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

As three former presidents gathered in Atlanta last week to offer stirring tributes to John Lewis, President Donald Trump was absent. In an interview that aired Monday night, Trump had few kind words of his own for the former Democratic congressman and civil rights leader, who died July 17.

Asked by interviewer Jonathan Swan how history would remember Lewis's contributions to the nation, Trump demurred.

"I don't know. I don't know John Lewis," Trump said in the "Axios on HBO" interview. "He chose not to come to my inauguration."

Pressed by Swan on whether he found Lewis "impressive," Trump was likewise noncommittal.


"I can't say way one way or another," Trump said, before noting again that Lewis had skipped his inauguration and his State of the Union speeches, adding, "Nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should have come. I think he made a big mistake."

Trump's swipes at Lewis follow a pattern for the president of stoking public grudges with respected figures even after his antagonists' deaths. Before Lewis, Trump has lobbed posthumous insults at politicians including Sen. John McCain and Rep. John Dingell.

But Trump's latest comments about Lewis are particularly notable in the wake of the passionate memorials offered last week by former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at his funeral at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church.

"He as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals," Obama said of Lewis at the service.

Speaking to Swan, Trump appeared unmoved by Lewis, who spent time in jail and suffered beatings by police while marching as a nonviolent civil rights protester in the 1960s and then spent more than three decades in Congress battling for similar issues.

"He was a person that devoted a lot of time and a lot of heart to civil rights," Trump allowed. "But there were many others, also."


Trump did say he had “no objection” to a movement to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma after Lewis.