John Lewis Clarifies His Remarks about Bernie Sanders (2/13/2016)


 
Some Call it Walking It Back

John Lewis Clarifies His Remarks about Bernie Sanders (2/13/2016)
 


13 February 2016 at 1:28:45 PM
salon

Have to say, as a Bernie Sanders supporter as well as someone who has always admired John Lewis, I found his comments the other day about Sanders, and the Clintons to be offensive and misleading. I don't know that he meant them to be that way, although he should have figured that the combative way he spoke about Sanders was bound not to sit well with those who admire Bernie. The issue isn't whether he can endorse whoever he wants, but that the way he spoke about endorsing Hillary Clinton simply didn't come out right. He must have realized it or got enough flak over it that he clarified his comments today

Here's what he said before. 

Rep. John Lewis questioned Sen. Bernie Sanders' commitment to promote racial equality during the civil rights era, saying he "never saw him" during the most tumultuous years of the movement.

"I never saw him. I never met him," the Georgia congressman said. "I was chair of the student non-violent coordinating committee for 3 years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom ride, the march on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed the board of education project for six years."

Lewis added, "But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton."

You can see when you watch this that one could get the idea not only that Bernie Sanders integrity was being called into question, but that there was an implication that the Clintons were also involved with Lewis in his civil rights activities. 

Here's Bernie Sanders civil rights activities, which took place in Chicago. He has also said he attended MLK's 1963 March on Washington and heck, so did a whole lot of people. Surely John Lewis didn't know and identify ALL people who were there. It's absurd. 

John Lewis said he was active between 1963 and 1966. At that point, in 1964, HIllary Clinton was a *Goldwater Girl*. 

 
Barry Goldwater in 1964 opposed the Civil Rights Act

So, even if unintentionally, what John Lewis said made it appear he met Bill and Hilary Clinton during the early 60's, he actually didn't. 

First, his own words from today where he clarified.

“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

Lewis had also suggested that he had known Bill and Hillary Clinton during the civil rights era, a comment he also clarified. ”If you take a look at a transcript of my statement, you will find I did not say that I met Hillary and Bill Clinton when I was chairman of SNCC in the 1960s. My point was that when I was doing the work of civil rights, led the Voter Education Project and organized voter registration in the South in the 1970s, I did cross paths with Hillary and Bill Clinton in the field. They were working in politics, and Bill Clinton became attorney general of Arkansas in the 1970s as well. That began a relationship with them that has lasted until today,” Lewis said in the statement.

So, he didn't meet the Clintons until the 1990s From *Conversations with Black America*

Had John Lewis really had NO opportunity ever to have met Bernie Sanders?

Nope. Here's one example from the march last year at the Edmund Pettus Bridge

And another. When Cynthia McKinney and John Lewis held hearings on black voter disenfranchisement, Bernie was the only white member to show up for support (Zaid Jilani)

Now, I have a larger point to make. People can respect John Lewis endorsing whoever he wants. But saying that stuff about Bernie in the strident tone he used was like waving a red flag in front of supporters. OF COURSE thinking people would want to challenge what he said, so that people would not somehow think that John Lewis was casting aspersions on Sanders character. OF COURSE. And since Lewis didn't specifically say that he actually met the Clintons during the 1990s, that part could also be checked out. Lewis must have believed, for whatever reason, that he needed to walk back his comments and add some detail, or he wouldn't have said what he said today. 

P.S. Incidentally, on Feb 10th, some black leaders who support HIllary Clinton, I'm sure COINCIDENTALLY, also came out and slammed Bernie on his civil rights record. If I were a bit more cynical, I might suspect this was all a coordinated effort. The Congressional Black Caucus PAC which is NOT the same as the Congressional Black Caucus also came out on the 11th. 

Ben Branch, the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, told The Intercept that his group made the decision after a vote from its 20-member board. The board includes 11 lobbyists, seven elected officials, and two officials who work for the PAC. Branch confirmed that the lobbyists were involved in the endorsement, but would not go into detail about the process.

Members of the CBC PAC board include Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist whorepresents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the maker of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, wholobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.

And a significant percentage of the $7,000 raised this cycle by the CBC PAC from individuals was donated by white lobbyists, including Vic Fazio, whorepresents Philip Morris and served for years as a lobbyist to Corrections Corporation of America, and David Adams, a former Clinton aide who nowlobbies for Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America.

Extra

And, from a former roommate of John Lewis

Bernie chose to organize in the North. I went south. I became the principle photographer of the southern civil rights movement, John Lewis’s roommate in Atlanta, and a paid staff member of the SNCC.  In 1962 there were very few white northerners that went south. In many ways SNCC did not want them to come. Integrated groups in the deep South seemed to incite violence. Finally, in the summer of 1964, SNCC and CORE recruited students from the North, and a thousand, mostly northern whites came to Mississippi.  Within days, just as Freedom Summer began, three were murdered. Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner, and James  Chaney. They were taken into the woods and lynched. Goodman and Schwerner were both from New York City. They were both Jewish, as I am. As Bernie Sanders is. Since the time of Roosevelt there had been a real effective political alliance between African Americans and Jewish Americans. The children of immigrants that had fled lands where they had been persecuted and discriminated against as a despised minority identified with and fought for the rights of American blacks. It was a natural and powerfully affective alliance.

The civil rights movement of the 1960’s was a vast and great event, like the American civil war. A few hundred thousand participated. The real soldiers were in the South, young African Americans, often high school school students, in the streets, creating change their parents’ generation had been unable or unwilling to demand.  John Lewis, who became the  chairman of SNCC, was one of the most visible of those soldiers. When he was my roommate he had been arrested forty times. That was his job. In the North,  armies of people raised money, sent food, bought cars and radios and sent them South.  Bernie chose to work in the North. These were the  “Friends of SNCC”. Harry Belafonte, helped create SNCC. He paid $300 for my first ticket to Mississippi. He supports Bernie. The largest of the Friends of SNCC was in Chicago.  John Lewis, tragically, is now being used by the Clinton machine to deny the early activism of Bernie Sanders. John says “he never met Bernie” in the South, a patently ridiculous statement. Did  John Lewis ever meet Andrew Goodman? Did John ever meet Mickey Schwerner? Did he meet James Chaney? I never did, and  I was sent everywhere by SNCC. The March on Washington, during which I slept on the floor of John’s hotel room, was attended by a quarter of a million people. It was a popular liberal event. How could anyone see anyone there? John (and Dr King) were cordoned off inside the Lincoln Memorial, along with celebrities and the powerful and everyone else was stretched out in mass below.

The worst thing about Congressman John Lewis’s embrace of the Clintons and his attack on Bernie Sanders is that John Lewis is a pacifist. It is one of his most endearing and courageous qualities. Congressman Lewis never votes for a military appropriation. He is one of only four or five congressmen, out of five hundred, that votes this way. His Christmas card shows John and his  friend the Dali Lama, touching heads and praying in Peace. He means it. John told me “war is outmoded”. John is right. But the crushing “politics as usual” of the Democratic Party has John supporting Hillary, who is a Hawk, and attacking Bernie Sanders, who is a much more peaceful politician.


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