Congressman John Robert Lewis died on July 17, 2020, following a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80. President Donald Trump took more than 12 hours to acknowledge Lewis’ death on his highly active Twitter page.
The news of Lewis’ death was confirmed by members of his family, who released the following statement:
It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis. He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother. He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America. He will be deeply missed.
Following the death of the nation’s leading civil rights activist, who had served in congress since 1987, Trump shared more than 20 retweets from himself and his political supporters. At around 1 a.m. ET, Trump tweeted a shout out to Fox News host Tammy Bruce, who sat in for Sean Hannity on Friday night.
He wrote, “Great job, Tammy!”
While Trump did not acknowledge Lewis’ death on Friday night, Twitter flooded with tributes to the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress.”
On Saturday morning, Trump continued to remain silent on Twitter concerning Lewis’ death. However, The Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim tweeted out a proclamation letter signed by the president, in which the White House ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on July 18, 2020.
UPDATE: Just after 2 p.m. on July 18, Trump tweeted, “Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.”
Lewis Refused to Attend Trump’s Inauguration, Calling Him an Illegitimate President
A week before Trump was inaugurated in 2017, the veteran Democratic congressman from Georgia’s 5th District told NBC’s Meet the Press, “I don’t see this president’elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
Trump fired back at Lewis on Twitter. He tweeted, “Congressman John Lewis 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. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
In 2019, Lewis was a staunch supporter of the president being impeached. Lewis tweeted, “The future of our democracy is at stake. I truly believe the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come. To do otherwise would betray the foundations of our democracy.”
Former President Barack Obama Released a Personal Statement on Lewis’ Death on Friday Night
Following Lewis’ death, former President Barack Obama shared a lengthy statement via Medium, which he published around 1:20 a.m. ET. Obama praised Lewis’ historic career, recalling him as “one of the original Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Member of Congress representing the people of Georgia for 33 years — not only assumed that responsibility, he made it his life’s work.”
“I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes,” Obama said. “Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders. When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly.”