By Lauren Victoria Burke
When two members of the Congressional Black Caucus, longtime Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), heard that President Donald Trump planned to attend the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum dedication ceremony, they both announced that they would forego the event.
The White House was critical.
On December 7, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “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. The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”
From that statement, you might never have guessed that the White House spokesperson was referring to a civil rights leader: Congressman John Lewis.
“It’s laughable that the White House is criticizing John Lewis and Bennie Thompson for not attending the opening of a civil rights museum that honors the sacrifices of …wait…John Lewis, Bennie Thompson, and many others,” said CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.). “This White House is not serious about civil rights. From dismantling the civil rights division in [the Department of Justice] to equating peaceful people who protested racism to neo-Nazi’s and White supremacists, they just don’t get it.”
In a joint statement on December 7, Thompson and Lewis wrote: “After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights 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.”
The statement continued: “President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. 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.”
Trump visited a few southern states the weekend before the special election to fill the Alabama Senate seat of former Senator Jeff Sessions, who is now the U.S. Attorney General.