Trump snubs civil right icon Lewis, cites absence at 2017 inauguration


WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's personal grievances aired anew this week as he dismissed the legacy of the late U.S. Representative John Lewis after snubbing the civil rights icon and defended his decision not to pay his respects following Lewis' recent death.

Lewis, who played an instrumental role in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was buried last week after an emotional service in Atlanta attended by three of the nation's four living past presidents.

Asked about the legacy of Lewis and how history would remember him, Trump told Axios: "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 January 2017 presidential inauguration after questioning the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election amid Russian meddling, sparking a verbal clash with the then-president elect.

The interview aired Monday night but was taped July 28 as Lewis was honored in Washington and laid in state in the U.S. Capitol. Trump did not to attend, although Vice President Mike Pence, who had served in the House of Representatives with Lewis, did.

Former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton attended a memorial service in Atlanta while 95-year-old former President Jimmy Carter sent a letter.

Obama also eulogized Lewis in a fiery speech that sought to press the nation further on voting protections ahead of November's election, which Trump has sought to undermine by casting doubt with unsubstantiated claims on mail-in ballots and suggesting a possible delay.

Lewis was instrumental in the push for Black Americans' voting rights and led a famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was nearly beaten to death.

An effort is now under way to rename the bridge, a National Historic Landmark, in honor of the lawmaker, who died last month at age 80. Trump told Axios he would not object. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Originally published