Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is a civil rights hero. He is also one of the most partisan members of the Democratic Party, and frequently accuses his political opponents, falsely, of racism.
Lewis also uses his iconic stature to deflect criticism when he is called out for these false attacks, exploiting — and, arguably, demeaning — the civil rights movement.
Here are five of the worst recent examples of what has become, for Rep. Lewis, a shamefully routine practice.
2008: Falsely accused Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin of racism. Lewis attacked McCain and Palin, then running against Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for president: “Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division,” he said, going on to suggest that the Republican ticket were creating the climate for racist terrorism. “[Democrat] George Wallace never threw a bomb … but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans … four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.” Years later, McCain still had not forgiven him: “I’ll never forgive John Lewis,” he told AL.com in 2013.
2010: Falsely claimed that Tea Party demonstrators said the “N-word” during anti-Obamacare rally. Lewis joined several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus in claiming that a crowd of thousands of Tea Party protesters on the steps of Capitol Hill had shouted the “N-word” at them when they walked through the crowd — apparently in the hope of provoking a reaction. “It surprised me that people are so mean and we can’t engage in a civil dialogue and debate,” Lewis claimed. But he never proved the accusation — and when Andrew Breitbart offered to donate $10,000, then $100,000, to the United Negro College Fund for any video evidence of the “N-word,” none surfaced — despite hundreds of cameras present.
2012: Falsely accused Republicans of wanting to take Americans back to Jim Crow. Lewis gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in which he recalled being beaten by white racists, along with fellow Freedom Riders, in 1961. He concluded by implying that Republicans wanted to bring back those days of blood and hatred: “Brothers and sisters, do you want to go back? Or do you want to keep America moving forward?”
2016: Falsely compared Donald Trump to George Wallace. Reviving his theme from 2008, Lewis said that Trump reminded him of the governors of the Jim Crow South and the police who let dogs loose on demonstrators: “I’ve been around a while and Trump reminds me so much of a lot of the things that George Wallace said and did … Sometimes I feel like I am reliving part of my past. I heard it so much growing up in the South…I heard it so much during the days of the civil rights movement. As a people, I just think we could do much better,” he told the Los Angeles Times in an interview.
2017: Falsely claimed Trump is “illegitimate” because of a Russian “conspiracy.” Joining the tin foil hat brigade, Lewis claimed that Trump was a kind of “Manchurian Candidate” put in place by Russia: “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president. … I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians, and others, that helped him get elected.”
2016: Falsely claimed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) played no role in the civil rights movement. Lewis, a supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency, tried to trash Sanders’s civil rights credentials. “I never saw him. I never met him,” Lewis said. Proof later emerged of Sanders’s arrest in civil rights protests in Chicago in the 1960s.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.