President Donald Trump refused in a new interview to reflect upon the late Rep. John Lewis’ legacy, declining even to say whether he found the civil rights leader to be an impressive figure.
In a conversation with Axios’ Jonathan Swan that aired Monday night on HBO but was recorded last week, as Lewis lied in state at the U.S. Capitol, the president was asked how he thought history would remember the former 17-term Atlanta-area congressman.
“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. He chose — I don’t, I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.”
“Do you find him impressive?” asked Swan.
“Uh, I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive,” Trump replied.
“He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches,” the president added. “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 think he should have come.”
“But taking your relationship with him out of it,” pressed Swan, “do you find his story impressive, what he’s done for this country?”
“He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights, but there were many others also,” Trump said.
The president’s remarks mark the latest in a line of feuds with public figures that Trump has been unwilling to dismiss even after their deaths.
Trump has continued his broadsides against former Sen. John McCain, who died from brain cancer in 2018, and he attacked Rep. Debbie Dingell last December after her husband — former Rep. John Dingell — died from prostate cancer earlier in the year.
Lewis, who was the youngest leader of the 1963 March on Washington and would go on to serve in the House for more than three decades, died on July 17 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last December.
Trump did not visit the Capitol while Lewis lied in state there last week, nor did the president join his three immediate predecessors at Lewis’ funeral service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
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