WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Lewis cancelled his plans to attend the grand opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum this weekend because he would have had to share a stage with President Donald Trump.
But the Atlanta Democrat said Thursday afternoon that he would reconsider if Trump chooses not to attend the event.
“Right now we’re not going,” Lewis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But there’s a possibility that the head man may not show up, may cancel.”
Lewis’ comments came less than a day after he expressed doubts about whether he could “live with myself” if he appeared on the same program as his political nemesis at this weekend’s ribbon-cutting of the museum in Jackson, Miss. The lawmaker said it was not appropriate for Trump to be invited given his response to white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., this summer.
“I think his presence would make a mockery of everything that people tried to do to redeem the soul of America and to make this country better,” Lewis said Wednesday.
Lewis’ House colleague Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., also announced Thursday he would not attend the museum’s opening event.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “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.”
“The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds,” Sanders said in a written statement.
Lewis and Trump have traded barbs for the better part of the year after Lewis, a high-profile Hillary Clinton supporter, said he didn’t see Trump as a “legitimate president” in January. Trump then took to Twitter to call Lewis’ Atlanta-based 5th Congressional District “crime infested” and “in horrible shape.” Lewis later skipped Trump’s inauguration and first congressional address in protest.
The NAACP has also called on Trump to skip the event.
Not all black lawmakers shared Lewis and the NAACP’s view. U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, said it would benefit Trump to visit the civil rights museum.
“If anybody needs to go it’s Trump,” Scott said. “The president clearly needs to be educated and informed on racial policies. He has to begin to become more sensitive and understanding of the fact that much of what he’s done has given the NAACP and so many in the black community a negative impression of him.”
Correction: Your Insider initially misheard Lewis’ comment. He referred to Trump as ‘head man,’ not a ‘hit man.’ We regret this error.