Georgia Rep. John Lewis’ absence at the inauguration of Donald Trump on Friday will mark the second time he has skipped an inauguration since he was elected to Congress 30 years ago.
President-elect Trump is not, in Lewis’ view a “legitimate president,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd last week, a comment which aroused a predictable response from Mr. Trump -- a trio of angry tweets. At the time, Lewis said it would be the first time he’d be skipping an inauguration as a congressman, but in fact, there was another missed inauguration -- also a protest -- and that was the 2001 swearing in of President George W. Bush.
“His absence at that time was also a form of dissent,” Lewis’ communications director, Brenda Jones, told CBS News’ Walt Cronkite in an email. “He did not believe the outcome of the election, including the controversies around the results in Florida and the unprecedented intervention of the US Supreme Court, reflected a free, fair and open democratic process. “
In the case of Mr. Trump’s election, Lewis is troubled by the Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected,” he told Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
The president-elect disparaged the civil rights leader as “All talk, talk talk - no action or results” and attacked him for representing a Georgia district Mr. Trump claimed was “crime infested” and “falling apart.”
Democrats and Republicans alike were quick to defend Lewis’ civil rights record as clearly having produced both action and results. And native Atlantans bristled at the description of their city. Like practically any U.S. city, Atlanta has poverty, but Lewis also represents Atlanta’s wealthy enclaves -- according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, homes run about $500,000 - $1,000,000 in the most exclusive neighborhoods in Lewis’ district.
CBS News’ Steve Chaggaris and Walt Cronkite contributed to this report.