The White House lashed-out at Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) Thursday. His crime? Turning down an invitation to join President Trump at the grand opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum this coming Saturday.
Rep. Lewis issued a joint statement with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Thursday making it clear that he felt the president’s mere presence at the museum would disrespect the people it was built to honor. He had no intentions of legitimizing Trump’s history of racially charged rhetoric and policies by attending and participating in all the pomp and ceremony at such an important event. He specifically called-out the commander in chief for his “disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players,” according to his statement.
The museum was created by the Mississippi legislature to “share the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the nation,” and to “promote a greater understanding of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and its impact by highlighting the strength and sacrifices of its peoples.”
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders fired back. Prompted with a question, she said simply, “We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.” Later she added that, “the civil rights movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”
There are just, well, a couple of problems with her response. First, Congressman Lewis is himself a hero of the Civil Rights Movement. He was one of what became known as the ‘Big 6 Leaders’ for his work as the chairman of the legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He knows what ‘incredible sacrifice’ the movement required because he made many of them himself.
Sanders’ comments suggest she has little idea who she’s talking about, much like her boss did when he spoke of a famous escaped slave and abolitionist leader, saying naively, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,”
Second, while stating the obvious about the impact of the civil rights movement, she conveniently left out the fact that only African Americans and people of color were held back by those barriers, especially in the South.
To attempt to lecture someone like Rep. Lewis about what he fought for would be like you or me lecturing President Trump about the value of a good spray tan. It’s unnecessary at best, condescending at worse.