Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Hardball on Monday that President Donald Trump “feels at home with” recent acts of racist violence, citing Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville riots in 2017 as proof.
I don’t think this president has been helpful. I think he feels at home with what is going on. When he reacted to what was happening in Charlottesville, you know, “Good people on both sides,” I cried. It’s not the America that I dream for, the one I was trying to help set right. It’s not the America we had during the days of President [John F.] Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. It’s — it’s different.
In fact, President Trump had been referring to non-violent protesters on both sides of the issue of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He specifically excluded neo-Nazis and extremists, whom he said should be “condemned totally.”
Moreover, Trump had delivered a televised statement from the White House the day before. “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said, as CNN noted.
Lewis, prompted by Matthews — who likened him to “a character out of the Bible” — went on to claim that Trump’s election “arrested that movement toward goodness and openness” that had characterized race relations under his predecessors.
In fact, a widely-cited Gallup poll shows race relations began to decline during President Barack Obama’s second term, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin controversy and through the Black Lives Matter movement that followed.
In 2010, Lewis was at the center of another alleged racial hoax, when several Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus claimed that Tea Party protesters had shouted the “n-word” at him as he walked through their demonstration on the weekend that Congress was voting on Obamacare. The claim, widely repeated throughout the media and used to malign the Tea Party as racist, was never substantiated.
Though Lewis and his colleagues were surrounded by hundreds of video cameras at the time, no video of the alleged incident has ever emerged, despite the late Andrew Breitbart offering to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund in exchange for any video proof of the incident.
Lewis, who was infamously beaten during a civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, has been known to put the heroism of his distinguished past to partisan use.
In 2008, Lewis cast Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as racists, likening the Republican presidential ticket to segregationist (Democrat) George Wallace, noting that Wallace “created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans” and warning the Republican candidates were doing the same, without explaining how. McCain had, in fact, just cited Lewis as one of three leaders whom he would consult for advice once elected. In 2018, after McCain’s death, Lewis praised the late senator as a “warrior for peace.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.