Donald Trump has been hit with celebrity backlash after he tore into civil rights legend John Lewis for questioning the legitimacy of the billionaire’s White House victory.
The president-elect’s remarks have intensified a feud with the black congressman just days before the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr and as the first African-American president prepares to leave office.
Hundreds of people, including many celebrities, politicians and reporters, have come out to denounce Trump’s attack – branding him loathsome for attacking the civil rights hero.
Trump tweeted on Saturday that Lewis, a democratic representative in Georgia, ‘should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.’
The incoming president added: ‘All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!’
Many have since responded to Trump’s remarks, with some even questioning his intelligence.
Actor and comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted: ‘While it was predictable to imagine Trump criticizing John Lewis, it’s impossible to imagine him risking his life for the rights of others.’
He later added: ’2011: Donald Trump questions legitimacy of first black President. 2017: John Lewis questions legitimacy of first orange President.’
Jane Lynch posted: ‘This guy, all talk no action?? @repjohnlewis? Huh.’
Comedian Stephen Colbert also weighed in tweeting: ‘Attn:@realDonaldTrump @repjohnlewis is my friend, and yours, whoever you are, whether you agree with him or not. #Leadwithlove #goodtrouble.’
Actress Rosie Perez chimed in saying: ‘Jeez. What is happening to respect & decency in USA?! @repjohnlewis does deserve better even if you disagree with his #Opinion. #CivilRights.’
Houston Astros baseball player Collin McHugh said: ‘As someone who lives in the @repjohnlewis 5th district, I don’t think #DJT has any idea what he’s talking about. #AtlantaOnTheRise #FILA.
‘… and then doubling down by insulting the civil rights hero on #MLK wknd…wow.’
Among the politicians to criticize Trump was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted: ‘Let us remember that many have tried to silence @repjohnlewis over the years. All have failed.’
‘John Lewis is an American hero,’ Rhode Island representative David Cicilline, said in a tweet directed at Trump.
‘You’re a fake billionaire who won’t release his taxes. Put down Twitter and get serious about governing.’
Trump continues to use Twitter to attack his adversaries, just as he did throughout the campaign, and Georgia’s Democratic party took special offense to these tweets about Representative Lewis.
In a statement, the party said: ‘Donald Trump’s loathsome remarks on Congressman Lewis and the 5th District not only illustrate the President-elect’s classlessness – it further proves that Trump may be the most uneducated students of history to occupy the oval office.
‘Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to ensuring that the United States lives up to its greatest expectations through nonviolence and grassroots activism. As a result of his and so many others’ sacrifices, our nation was transformed into a society where the scales of justice found more balance. Congressman Lewis’ legacy came at a steep price – he was jailed and beaten and bloodied. But he never gave up. He never gave in. And we, as a nation are the beneficiaries of his commitment to getting into good trouble.
‘Beyond these vulgar attacks, it is disheartening that Trump would rather sing the praises of Vladmir Putin than Georgia’s own living social justice legend and civil rights icon. Trump owes Congressman Lewis, the 5th District, the City of Atlanta, and Georgians more than just an apology. He owes us the respect found in working towards a more perfect union through inclusion, equality, and commitment to the strengthening of everyone’s civil and human rights.’
The pastor of Martin Luther King Jr’s church said that the President should learn from Representative Lewis rather than disparage him, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Reverend Raphael Warnock, of Ebenezer Baptist Church, said: ‘(Trump) Continually demonstrates that he is too small a man for the responsibility he now assumes.
‘John Lewis has spent his life serving others. Trump has spent his life serving himself.
‘Rather than sending nasty tweets, he ought to sit at John Lewis’s feet and learn what service, sacrifice, and integrity look like.’
His remarks also angered Dan Rather, a reporter and writer.
Rather shared his thoughts in a Facebook post, saying: ’One can easily understand why Mr. Lewis’ comment would anger Mr. Trump because it is a real threat. The famed and respected Civil Rights leader is putting into words what few of his political peers have dared say out loud.
‘And we must note that there are still many more questions about this issue than there are answers. The fact that the Senate will now conduct hearings – mark you hearings that may very well cast doubt on the legitimacy of a president who has yet to be officially inaugurated – will hopefully lead to a more complete account of what took place.
‘But whatever the truth is about these swirling allegations on Russia, and whether one feels such conclusions of illegitimacy are premature, Mr. Trump would have been well served to have let Mr. Lewis’ comments pass. Of course he couldn’t.
‘I have known Mr. Lewis for decades. I covered him in those early and dangerous days of the Civil Rights Movement when almost all the institutions of government and society, especially in the South, seemed to be arrayed against the young activists.
‘One thing you cannot say about John Lewis is that he is ‘all talk, talk, talk – no action or results.’ This man came within a hair’s breath of dying after being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
‘His expert organizing skills and moral clarity made the United States a far more just and equitable nation. And for all this to happen at the beginning of Martin Luther King weekend, of all times.’
Bill Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard and political commentator also Tweeted: ‘It’s telling, I’m afraid, that Donald Trump treats Vladimir Putin with more respect than he does John Lewis.
Yet another, Evan McMullin, an independent politician, tweeted: ‘On this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, let it be clear that John Lewis is an American patriot. Trump’s attacks on him further confirm it.’
Senior Advisor to President Obama tweeted: ‘Trump’s assumption that an African-American Congressman’s district must be crime infested is a real window into his ignorant views.’
Lewis is among the most revered leaders of the civil rights movement, and has devoted himself to promoting equal rights for African Americans.
He participated in Freedom Rides, that were challenges to segregated families in southern bus terminals.
He also suffered a skull fracture during the march in Selma, Alabama, which he helped to organize more than a half-century ago.
For many African-Americans the contrast between this inauguration and Barack Obama’s first one, in 2009, was striking.
The 16-term congressman said Friday that he would not attend Trump’s swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol this coming Friday, and that it would be the first time he had skipped an inauguration since joining Congress three decades ago.
‘You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,’ Lewis said in an interview with NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that is set to air Sunday.
‘I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,’ Lewis said.
Lewis’ spokeswoman, Brenda Jones, declined to respond to Trump and said the lawmaker’s ‘opinion speaks for itself.’
‘We as a nation do need to know whether a foreign government influenced our election,’ she said.
US intelligence agencies have said Russia meddled in the election to help Trump win.
He finally accepted the fact after months challenging it, but he also emphasized that ‘there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.’
Democrat Clinton received 2.9 million more popular votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College vote.
Trump’s assertion that Lewis’ district is falling apart and crime infested is hard to prove.
Georgia’s 5th Congressional District includes the Atlanta metro region, which has a large African-American population.
The district is considered one of the nation’s fastest growing areas, but its crime and poverty rates are higher than the national average.
The area also covers part of the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, along with the headquarters for Fortune 500 companies such Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, the Georgia Institute of Technology, several historically black colleges and universities and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world’s busiest.