Rep. John Lewis announced that he is canceling a trip to the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum because President Donald Trump also intended to be there. The Civil Rights leader said he would only go if the president decided not to attend.
“Right now we’re not going,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But there’s a possibility that the head man may not show up, may cancel.”
Lewis has been a consistent critic of the Trump, calling him an illegitimate president when first took office in January. But Lewis cited Trump’s words and actions following the violence in Charlottesville earlier this year as a reason for the current impasse, a moment when the president blamed “both sides” for the violence. Trump’s appearance would “make a mockery of everything that people tried to do to redeem the soul of America and make this country better,” he said.
“After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil right activists and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” Lewis said in a statement released with Rep. Bernie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, who has also announced that he will not attend the opening.
The museum’s opening is part of the state’s bicentennial celebration this weekend, which also includes the grand opening of the Mississippi History Museum.
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” Reps. Lewis and Thomas said in their statement. “The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place. After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum.”
The White House shared its disappointment in Lewis’ decision, but also seemed to indicate in their statement that they did not understand the congressman’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement:
“We think it’s 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,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”
Former U.S. Navy Secretary and former Gov. Ray Mabus also said they would not attend.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s office announced late Thursday night that the president will not speak publicly when he visits the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum as part of the grand opening celebration.