October 11th, 2008
05:20 PM ET
6 years ago

McCain calls on Obama to repudiate 'shocking' Lewis comments

Lewis and McCain traded tough statements Saturday.
Lewis and McCain traded tough statements Saturday.

(CNN) - John McCain – who has often praised civil rights icon John Lewis – called a statement by the Georgia congressman Saturday comparing the outbursts at recent Republican rallies to the rhetoric of segregationist George Wallace “a brazen and baseless attack” that is “shocking and beyond the pale.”

Lewis issued his statement after several days of headline-grabbing anger directed at Democratic nominee Barack Obama by some attendees at McCain campaign rallies.

"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. [Sarah] Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse," Lewis said in a statement.

Watch: McCain defends Obama at campaign event

"George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama," wrote the Democrat.

McCain has written about Lewis, praising his actions at Selma during the civil rights movement. The Republican nominee even said during a summer faith forum that Lewis was one of three men he would turn to for counsel as president.

But the Arizona senator blasted the congressman’s remarks, and called on Obama to repudiate them. "Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale,” he said in a Saturday afternoon statement released by his campaign.

(Updated with Obama camp reaction after the jump)

“The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.

"I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America."

McCain himself seemed to be looking to calm frustrated Republicans Friday, telling supporters at a campaign rally that the Democratic nominee was a "good man," and that they had nothing to fear from an Obama presidency.

Update: Obama's campaign said he did not agree with the comparison made by Lewis - but did not repudiate the congressman's remarks.

“Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States ‘pals around with terrorists.’

"As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together. That is the kind of campaign Senator Obama will continue to run in the weeks ahead."


Filed under: John Lewis • John McCain • Popular Posts
soundoff (960 Responses)
  1. Jonah

    If anyone believes that Palin knows anything ANYTHING about God, than you folks have lost your minds.

    the woman is a typical pandora. An evil woman whose ways of moving up are lies and anger.

    If any of you think there is a place in heaven for Palin, than heaven must be a very horrible place.

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. Bill, BN

    Palin's crowds are getting smaller, mostly of teens who's parents
    MADE them attend. Befitting of her. Although after her being found
    guilty of abusing her power, I'm surprised that anyone still shows up.
    Some people love torture.

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Rachel

    Dear John McCain-
    You were wrong to pick Ms. Sarah Palin who is responsible for this hatemongering but you senator are just as guilty for allowing it to go on at your events. I am sorry but I can't trust you and will not be voting for you. I will be voting Obama/Biden. I don't understand why you won't denounce Sarah Palin but then again you picked her so why should you? She has no business being Vice President of ANYTHING!

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Birgit

    I think Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. McCain should apologize. Gov. Palin incites and brings out the hatred and sadistic nature of humanity and no way as a Christian are we to bring forth fruits of hatred and call a brother a terrorist. I am challenging the McCain Campaign why their right wing organization who was part of the Annaheim fund recruited Obama when they where the ones who recruited and appointed Mr. Ayers. They should have appraised him of the ties of Ayers, but than Sen. Obama the Christian he is would have joined anyway as any one of us who don't just pretend to be pentacostals would have done also . They owe Sen. Obama an apology since they were the once's in charge of the appointments to that board. Gov. Palin he who throws the first stones, most of us Christians who were not always Christians did things what we are not so proud of now when we were not saved, are we not forgiven??? The bible states only Satan throws our past sin in our face! Once we became Christians we don't try to take other peoples liflyhood away, abuse power and go on personal vendettas are we?

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  5. Alex Boone

    John Lewis has bagage. Check him out!

    McCain/Palin in 08!

    OBreakUS/Buffoon NEVER!!

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. Greg Stevens

    From over the ditch in Australia it looks like McCain and Palin were inciting racism and using wedge politics. A shameful case of redneck group think.

    Vote for change and rejoin us America as part of the world. Your strong but fair leadership is required to help us address the global needs of the planet.

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. M

    Rep. Lewis – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! More leaders need to step up and say what we are all thinking.
    McCain/Palin's desperate attempts to win the presidency by inciting hatred is a national disgrace. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, AMERICANS need to all demand more from our leaders & citizens.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08!

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Barack Obama IS Our 44th president !

    I am so happy Rep. John Lewis has spoken out against McCain and Palin's dispicable behavior of sowing hate-filled seeds. But there should be many more leaders speaking out against this ignorant and dangerous actions. The Secret Service should investigate this matter.

    Also, every American should reject McCain and Palin completely. Utilizing our voting power will definitely speak volumes against these dirty and nasty tactics !

    Obama-Biden in '08 ans 2012 !

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. Bobby Seabrook

    McCain thinks that Americans are ignorant and without brains. He has been banging Barack with lies upon lies, he now realizes that most Americans are tired of his sick attacks against Barack. We all know it is because his horrible tactics that blew up in his face drove him to act like he supports and cares about Barack. HIS COMPLIMENTS TOWARDS bARACK ARE HOLLOW AT BEST...........HE PLAYED THE RACE CARD THRUOGH HIS SUPPORTERS and it was realized by the American public, he knowing that is now putting on a false face.

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. K.MOUSSEAU

    I AM A CANADIAN BUT HAVE BEEN WATCHING THE ELECTIONS PLAY OUT , WHAT I AM SEEING IS THERE IS MUCH RACISM STILL VERY PREVALENT IN THE USA ,DID YOU THINK IT WOULD CHANGE .? THERE ARE A VERY ,VERY LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO DO NOT WANT A BLACK PRESIDENT . THE PROXINITY OF YOUR ELECTIONS IS BRINGING OUT THE FEVOR IN THOSE WHO DO NOT. I PRAY FOR BOTH CANDIDATES FOR AT THIS TIME IT IS THEY WHO NEED OUR PRAYERS.

    October 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. Typical White Guy

    No matter what Sen. McCain says, ya'll cry racist or "not fair." Typically lefties. Grow up!

    If you had the nads, you'd be willing to debate Obama's past, ACORN, Ayers, Wright, etc. The truth is NOT in you favor. He has more in his closet than a GLBT rally :-)

    God help this country!!! Pray Obama loses!!!

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. Mitch

    Lewis is bang on correct. What's there to apologize? Palin attacks Obama today about abortion? And dismisses the fact she was found in violation of alaska ethics laws YET still says she did nothing wrong?

    Where is the lack of character really lying?

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  13. Donna Annacone

    I agree with Kathy! I too remember George Wallace and the "hate" he spued. It is time for the real John McCain to clean up the mess he has made and apologize to the Country for this new era of divisivness that we have not experienced in many years. We are one America.........

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. Edith Arkansas

    I think its time to look into the behavior of Sarah Heath Palin. She appears to have a behavior of a narcacistic socipath egomaniac. I think its time for CNN to have a consultant look at her behavior also Senator McCain's, McCain also showing signs of having early symptoms of alheimzier disease . its time for serious evaulations.

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  15. Meg

    Somebody needed to say it!! That it came from this particular source is even more important. If anything happens to Obama as a result of McCain and Palin's hate mongering, they should both be put on trial!!!!!

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. Muhammad Shakoor

    As a independent voter, The McCain campaign has inflamed those rally to act in this manner. They knew exactly what their doing with those crowds. All of us can see this but the Republicans, they know they are behind in the polls and already stated that they have to change the subject.
    It's amazing how well they try to play the innocent victim's to everything and has always CHARGE Sen.Obama with every wrong that is going on in this Country.
    I really like to thank people like Kathleen Parker, for her honesty and intergity.

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Nancy

    Obama should not repudiate Lewis comments. John McCain should apologize to Obama and the American people for his disgraceful campaign antics. I grew up in Alabama when George Wallace was governor and I agree with Lewis. McCain is spewing the same hateful rhetoric and innuendo that Wallace did. When McCain finally spoke up at a rally after a supporter (not very bright I might add) called Obama an Arab, he only did because he knew if he didn't , his reputation would be even more damaged than it already has. Shame on John McCain, he's no longer a leader. In my opinion, after this disgraceful campaign, his place in history will be forever marred.

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. Independent in New York

    OH REALY, LOOK IN THE MIRROR JOHN. Get rid of that Alaskian lunatic.

    October 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  19. Laura from Florida

    I havn't seen a person in my lifetime as hateful as Sarah Palin, and her hate springs over to the entire McCain campaign, including McCain himself. She has angered everyone with her rheortric regarding Ayers, and now it blows up in their face. I can't believe they would take their campaign on this road, Obama is a respectful decent man and is going to lead the country on the right road, and not with HATE LIKE SARAH PALIN . God forbid she gets in the white house. We must not vote for McCain, Sarah's husband will be in the white house where he doesn't belong.

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Mark

    Welcome to a world where a Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidate (McCain and Palin) have both been found guilty of ethics violations. This has never happened before in a Presidential election or happened during a Presidential term.

    When we talk about ethics and knowing people maybe we should question the people who have been found guilty of actually committing the violation.

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    Mr. Lewis has nothing to apologize for.

    He is pleading for the hateful rhetoric to stop before some nut tries or does something as horrible as what happened in Alabama.

    It is weak, manipulative people that use this type of dangerous rhetoric to control weak dangerous minds.

    John McCain and Sarah Palin are a disgrace.

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    God Bless lewis -he played a major role in the civil rights movements
    and when we look back after this election he gain further praise for saving the US ffrom looking like some hird world country.
    When is Mc Cain going to come to grips with the fact the election is over
    God Bless Congressman Lewis

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Dan

    Thank you Congressman Lewis for standing up to the politics of hate. Senator McCain, have you no sense of decency sir?

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. R

    McCain/Palin are getting exactly what they deserve. Someone is calling them out on the negativity they are promoting and they don't like that. If they can dish it out then they should be able to take it. If you promote hate and nastiness that is exactly what you get back. John McCain has lost votes not necessarily because of his policies but because of who he is showing himself to be.

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. ATLstompin!

    Senator McCain.

    You and your BFF (Palin) have got to be out of your ever-loving minds! Hatred acts deserve to be called out for what they are. As an African-American, I have never been skewed by the fact that there typically has only been Caucasians to vote for. Not once in my almost 40 years have I thought anything negative about any of the candidates and not once have I never exercised my right to vote which I could have if I had such twisted views that "they don't represent me". But this election, all of this "I'm scared" , "Terrorist", and "Kill 'em" stuff by some of your supporters has me in total dislike of your entire campaign because you neglected to squash all of the negativity and totally unwarranted attacks against Senator Obama. I was watching your campaign for solutions, but it's become quite sickening listening to the constant barrage of misleading information spewing from Governor Palin's and your mouths and obvious that solutions from the McCain campaign I will not find. Truely shameful!

    October 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
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