On Thursday, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) endorsed Hillary Clinton along with the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) civil rights activism, saying he never met Sanders during the civil rights era.
Sanders has noted that he participated in the March on Washington and was arrested while he was a student at the University of Chicago when he tried to desegregate housing at the university and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“To be very frank, I never saw him. I never met him,” Lewis said in response to a question about Sanders’s civil rights advocacy. He pointed out that he met both Clintons during the civil rights era.
Lewis noted that he was the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966 and, “I was involved in the the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed the Voter Education Project, but I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”
Lewis also said he knows the South since he was “I was born and grew up in rural Alabama. And during the height of the civil rights movement, I worked in 11 southern states and Texas.”
He said he will go to South Carolina on Sunday and Monday to knock on doors, go to the churches and the streets because “I believe there’s no one better prepared to be president of the United States of America than Hillary Clinton.” He said the country needed her “leadership, vision, and dedication more than ever before” and will urge South Carolina’s Democrats to “vote like we’ve never, ever voted before.”
During the 2008 election, Lewis switched his endorsement from Clinton to Barack Obama, saying then that “something is happening in America” and “there is a movement, there is a spirit, there is an enthusiasm in the hearts and minds of the American people that I have not seen in a long time, since the candidacy of Robert Kennedy.”
Black establishment leaders, like feminist establishment leaders who were frustrated that young women were voting for Sanders, have been frustrated that young black voters may support Sanders and what black establishment leaders believe are his empty and unrealistic promises like free public college for all.
South Carolina House Democratic Leader J. Todd Rutherford told the Washington Post that Sanders has “only really started talking about issues concerning African Americans in the last 40 days.”
“On the question of social justice for African Americans, the record is thin,” Rutherford said.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) also dismissed young black voters who may support Sanders by saying that since “many of them are inexperienced and have not gone through a presidential election cycle before” they may not “understand that when a candidate presents a message, you’ve got to pierce the message to determine whether or not it’s realistic, given the political climate that we live in.”