Watch CBS News

Trump Clashes With Civil Rights Leader John Lewis Days Before Inauguration

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Donald Trump's feud with civil rights icon John Lewis is highlighting the president-elect's willingness to attack any and all political rivals even with his inauguration less than a week away.

The Republican billionaire slammed the Democratic congressman -- and his Atlanta-area district -- on Saturday, a day after Lewis described Trump as an illegitimate president. Lewis, like a handful of Democratic lawmakers, vowed to skip Trump's Friday swearing-in ceremony.

New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez will be joining Lewis, taking to Twitter to stand in solidarity with the civil rights icon.

"Congressman John Lewis is a national hero and I stand with him," she wrote. "I also am not attending inauguration given the tone of Trump's campaign."

It's the first time Lewis has skipped the swearing in of a president in his 16 terms in Congress, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

"You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis said.

Republican Long Island Congressman Peter King tells WCBS 880's Mike Smeltz he strongly disagrees with any politician who doesn't show up to the Friday ceremony.

"I would say the same thing if it was Republicans who did not show up if Hillary Clinton won the election," he said. "The presidency is larger than any man or woman and larger than any political party."

King adds that not showing up sends a bad signal to the country and only deepens disunity.

Reince Priebus told NBC's "Meet the Press'' that Obama should "step up'' and "call it what it is -- it's wrong what is happening, it's wrong how some of these Democrats are treating President-elect Trump.''

Trump tweeted Saturday that Lewis "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.''

The incoming president added: "All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!''

The tweets angered Democrats, some in the black community and others in Lewis' district.

"I think it's really clear that President-elect Trump doesn't know much about Atlanta," Fulton County chairman John Eaves said. "I really want to call him out on his promise to fix American cities."

"Let us remember that many have tried to silence @repjohnlewis over the years. All have failed," tweeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The Democratic Party of Georgia called on Trump to apologize to Lewis and the people of his district.

"It is disheartening that Trump would rather sing the praises of Vladimir Putin than Georgia's own living social justice legend and civil rights icon," state party spokesman Michael Smith said.

"John Lewis is an American hero," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said in a tweet directed at Trump. "You're a fake billionaire who won't release his taxes. Put down Twitter and get serious about governing."

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., piled on Saturday, drawing comparisons to the president-elect's treatment of the outgoing president at times.

"Anyone who attacks @repjohnlewis loses legitimacy in my eyes, especially someone who made such a craven effort to delegitimize @BarackObama," he tweeted.

Hours later, Trump softened his tone toward the representative.

"Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!" he tweeted.

On Sunday, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said that Rep. John Lewis' record as a civil rights icon shouldn't make him immune to criticism and debate.

In an interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union,'' the Kentucky Republican said he has a great deal of respect for Lewis, but "he's a partisan and I disagree with him on a great deal of issues.''

"I should be able to disagree with him and not to have it all come back to I have no appreciation for a civil rights icon because of this, and I think that's the part that I think is unfair," he said.

Late last night, Trump tweeted inauguration day is turning out to be even bigger than expected.

Trump will be sworn in as president on Friday, Jan. 20.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.