The fight between Donald Trump and John Lewis reignited Tuesday when the president-elect again took to Twitter to bash the Georgia congressman.
This time Trump’s Twitter ire was raised after several news outlets reported that Lewis’ claim Sunday that he never missed a previous inauguration was untrue. It turns out that Lewis also took part in a Congressional Black Caucus boycott of George W. Bush’s first swearing-in in 2001 as a protest of the questioned outcome of the 2000 election.
Lewis on Sunday told NBC News' "Meet the Press" that Trump's swearing-in on Friday would be the first inauguration he's skipped in 30 years in Congress. But it appears now that Lewis misspoke. His press secretary, Brenda Jones, told reporters he also missed one other.
“Representative Lewis also missed one other inauguration, the first inauguration of President George W. Bush,” Jones said. “His absence at that time was also a form of dissent. He did not believe the outcome of that election, including the controversies around the results in Florida and the unprecedented intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, reflected a free, fair and open democratic process.”
The 2001 inauguration, of course, followed the contentious election between Bush and Democrat Al Gore that swung on the outcome of contested ballots in Florida. Lewis and other members of the black caucus that year were concerned that predominantly black neighborhoods reported chronic lines and botched voter registration files.
Trump, in a pair of tweets sent at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, said he was not convinced Lewis simply made a mistake.
“John Lewis said about my inauguration, ‘It will be the first one that I’ve missed.’ WRONG (or lie)! He boycotted Bush 43 also because he … thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush’s swearing-in….he doesn’t believe Bush is the true elected president.” Sound familiar! WP”
The latest flare-up follows this past weekend's conflagration when Lewis said Trump would not be a "legitimate" president and Trump responded by carpet-bombing, via tweet, Lewis' district, which includes most of the jewels of Atlanta. Atlanta was not impressed.
Lewis has taken his lumps from elsewhere, too. Maine Gov. Paul LePage told the radio station WVOM: “John Lewis ought to look at history. It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank-you would suffice.”
Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter called Lewis a "racist pig" on Facebook, and News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB host Erick Erickson called Lewis a "bully" on his website.
“But now John Lewis uses race as a weapon against his political opponents,” Erickson wrote. “He cheapens a word that once did physical injury to him.”
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, like Lewis a veteran of the civil rights movement, said both men made mistakes but noted that Lewis is "disillusioned" right now.
It's not been all bad news for Lewis. Sales of his books have skyrocketed, with his 1999 memoir selling out on Amazon.
Lewis is hardly alone in promising to avoid Trump's inauguration Friday. The Washington Post reports that more than 50 Democratic lawmakers will stay away. The newspaper's curated list does not include any other Georgians.
This is not the first time, either, that a Georgia lawmaker decided he had somewhere better to be when a new president of the opposing party was sworn in. In January 2009, then-U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Coweta County Republican, skipped Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
Brian Robinson, then Westmoreland's press secretary, who would go on to work for Gov. Nathan Deal, explained his boss' decision in 2009 to a McClatchy Newspapers reporter.
“He’s a Republican and this is a Democratic — with a lowercase ‘p’ — party function, ” Robinson said at the time. “Plus, it’s going to be 10 degrees and crowded. (Westmoreland) is not a huge pomp and circumstance kind of guy anyway. Put him in a field with a gun at a turkey shoot and he’ll be good to go. If Obama had a turkey shoot, Lynn would be there.”
There is a difference between not attending and protesting, Robinson said Tuesday.
“Not going isn’t a big deal,” said Robinson, now a GOP strategist. “Saying he’s not a legitimate president is a big deal. Saying that hurts the country — and I’d say the same if Republicans lost.”