President Donald Trump called Barack Obama’s eulogy for the late Congressman John Lewis ‘ridiculous’ and a sign of anger from the former president.
‘It showed anger there that people don’t see. He lost control and he’s been really hit very hard by both sides for that speech. That speech was ridiculous,’ Trump said on ‘Fox & Friends’ Wednesday morning.
In his 40-minute eulogy last week, given at the same pulpit where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach, Obama outlined a dramatic new plan for voting reform that was seen as a call to arms for Democrats to battle President Trump, who has railed against mail-in voting and complained the system is ‘rigged.’
Obama did not mention Trump by name but it was clear who he was referring to as he railed against the oppression of voting rights.
‘Few elections have been as urgent on so many levels as this one,’ Obama said of the 2020 contest. ‘We can’t treat voting as an errand to run if we have some time. We have to treat it as the most important action we can take. On behalf of democracy. Like John, we have to give it all we have.’
Trump, meanwhile, has dismissed Lewis’ legacy and said the civil rights icon made a ‘big mistake’ not coming to his inauguration.
Longtime Congressman Lewis, whose bloody beating at Selma helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, died on July 17 and was laid to rest last Thursday. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also eulogized him at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
But Trump stayed away and instead refused to say whether he thought Lewis’ life was impressive in an interview with Axios. He also did not visit the late Congressman’s body as he lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Asked how history will remember Rep. Lewis Trump replied: ‘I really don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.’
Lewis did not attend Trump’s inauguration and had previously said he did not see the billionaire businessman as as a ‘legitimate president’ because of alleged Russian interference in the election.
When Trump later complained about immigrants from ‘s***hole countries,’ Lewis declared, ‘I think he is a racist… we have to try to stand up and speak up and not try to sweep it under the rug.’
Probed on if he thought Lewis’ life and story was impressive the president replied: ‘He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. ‘
‘And, again, nobody has done more for black Americans than I have.’
‘He should have come. I think he made a big mistake.
‘I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive.’
In 1965, Lewis was beaten by Alabama state troopers in the city of Selma in what became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ when he marched for voting rights. He inspired others with calls to make ‘Good Trouble.’
Trump did say he would have ‘no objection to’ renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama where Lewis was beaten after the civil rights leader.
The president added: ‘I would have no objection to it, if they’d like to do it, would have no objection to it whatsoever.’
Speaking at his service Obama, who awarded Lewis the Medal of Freedom in 2011, said he owed a great debt to his ‘mentor’ and his forceful vision of freedom and that Lewis would be a ‘founding father of a fuller, better, fairer America’.
He said Lewis was an American whose faith had been tested ‘again and again to produce a man of pure joy and unbreakable perseverance’.
‘Americans like John… liberated all of us. America was built by people like them. America was built by the John Lewises,’ Obama said.
Both Bush and Clinton both spoke of Lewis’ humble beginnings on a farm in Troy, Alabama, to becoming a leader of the civil rights movement and ultimately the man known as the ‘conscience of Congress’.
Lewis’ funeral followed a week of memorial services. The coffin bearing his body was escorted across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, decades after his ‘Bloody Sunday’ beating there drew a national spotlight to the struggle for racial equality.
Lewis, who spent more than three decades in Congress, died at the age of 80 after a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that had the greatest impact on the movement.
The Georgia congressman had been battling the cancer since December and died after receiving hospice care in Atlanta.