WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump Saturday criticized as "all talk … no action" Rep. John Lewis, who was repeatedly beaten and nearly lost his life in the long struggle for civil rights.
Trump's Twitter comments Saturday about the Georgia congressman, a Democrat, followed Lewis' assertion Friday that he did not see Trump as a "legitimate" president because of Russian involvement in the defeat of Hillary Clinton.
Trump's attack on Lewis came at the beginning of a weekend dedicated to civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Trump also used racially freighted language when he said that Lewis' Atlanta district was "crime infested." The district includes many of the area's most successful neighborhoods.
The furor began Friday with the release of part of an interview for NBC's "Meet the Press" in which Lewis was asked if he would try to work with Trump despite their political differences. "I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It's going to be hard," he said. "I don't see the president-elect as a legitimate president." He said he believed that "the Russians participated" in Trump's election and added: "They helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton." He said he wouldn't attend the inauguration.
"Congressman John 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. All talk, talk, talk-no action or results. Sad!" Trump's Twitter post said.
He turned to Twitter once again Saturday night: "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!"
Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, by that time already a central figure in the civil rights movement. For years, he was arrested and beaten in Southern protests.
In 1965, during the "Bloody Sunday" march at the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Ala., Lewis was clubbed so severely that his skull was fractured. He recovered and in 1986 was elected to Congress.
In 2011, Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. In 2015, Obama joined Lewis and other civil rights veterans for a 50th anniversary walk over the bridge. "John Lewis is an icon of the civil rights movement who is fearless in the pursuit of justice and equality," said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. "He deserves better than this."
Despite rain and cold weather, marchers filled several blocks in Washington on Saturday as they rallied in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march that was at times also a rally against Trump. The crowd chanted "No justice, no peace" and "Love trumps hate."