After a week of tributes and mourning for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), President Donald Trump declined to offer any praise for the late civil rights icon and instead bemoaned the fact that he “didn’t come to my inauguration.”
In an interview with Axios that aired Monday, Trump was asked how he thinks history will remember Lewis.
“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.”
The interview was recorded last Tuesday as Lewis’ body lay in state in the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle visited the casket to pay their respects, including Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Trump did not. Nor did he attend Lewis’ Atlanta memorial service Thursday, where former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke in honor of the man whose nonviolent activism helped galvanize support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Lewis organized peaceful demonstrations and voter-registration drives, led one of the most famous marches in American history ― was beaten by a state trooper for doing so ― and later served as the U.S. representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for more than three decades. Yet when pressed on whether he found Lewis’ history impressive, Trump said that he “can’t say one way or the other.”
“I find a lot of people impressive,” Trump added. “I find many people not impressive. But no, he didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches, and that’s okay. That’s his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should’ve come. I think he made a big mistake.”
Lewis said in 2017 that he skipped Trump’s inauguration because he did not believe Trump to be a “legitimate president” due to Russian interference in the election. Lewis also skipped Bush’s first inauguration. A documentary about his life was released last month: