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. plain jane

    what about obama during the primaries telling his supporter to get in Rupublican and Independent voters faces and yell at them.

    What about Obama In NV when he said if they bring knives, we bring guns!

    those comments are very alarming!

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. Finley, Ohio

    80 years old White Lady from small town .. in her town There is no progressive talker right-wing talkers on radio all day. she ask obama a one question ?... she asked him Who Are You? Obama responded to.. I Am Your Son .don’t let them scare you” ...
    .She definately had tears in her eyes .she is voting for obama..

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. Doug Blackman

    I've got an idea! Why doesn't McCain suspend his campaign again so he can convene a committee to study the economic terror gripping the country (not that he'd understand the results), and another to study Lewis's comments AND those by his designated mud-slinger Sarah Palin, the grinning buffoon.

    She eggs the crowds on to the edge of violence, and then they wonder why Lewis would say what he's said.

    The more I see Palin, the more I wonder why the publishers of 'Mad' magazine don't sue her for stealing their "What, me worry" grin.

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Cindy in Atlanta

    Mr. Lewis is right on with his comments. I'm glad he decided to step up to the plate and say something. I'm sure this also might have been in respone to a lively debate held in GA this past week between 2 congressional candidates. Everytime the Dem candidate mentioned Obama's name, someone in the audience shouted "bomb him"....so McCain and Palin's behavior is spreading across the country.

    Obama should not respond to this at all...Mr. Lewis did not mention his name at all in his statement. So if John McCain wants someone to apologize, he should be seeking that apology from Mr. Lewis and not Obama.

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. Mark

    Who installed the politics of fear? Republicans...

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. BetGR

    I believe he (McCain) doth protest too much. Rep. Lewis is totally correct and there is nothing to repudiate. This is exactly what McCain and Palin are doing. The words, lies and and the sliming that McCain and Palin (and their pundits) being directed at Sen. Obama are offensive to me and millions of Americans so they need to stop this false protest and change their ways or just shut up. They have made your beds – now they need to lie in them. Negativity is not what we Americans ever wanted but you wouldn't stop.... so tough. And if you whine at the truth as put out by Rep. Lewis, then McCain and Palin are even bigger babies than I thought.

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. No cocky wacko

    If you fan the embers a fire will burn – this is only the latest irresponsible phase of McCain/ Palin, but it is surely the most dangerous one. For everyone's sake, I hope they stop and turn this around. Rep. Lewis is 100% right – many more need to concur!

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  8. Staggie D Owens

    What Mr. Lewis said is exactly right. Mccain and Palin have gone too far and Mccain knows it, that's why he took the mike from one and corrected others, but he should have realized what he was doing before it got to this point. Mccain has poor judgment and Palin has no judgment or for that matter she seems to have no scruples. I hope enough Americans sees through the two of them. Obama is an honorably man and is the leader we need. They have put evil in the campaign. I for one an very disappointed.

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. Tracy-Oakley

    Unfortunately Lewis is right and McCain has noone to blame but himself..Those people at McCains rallies are like the 60's coming back to life. SAD!!

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. Ex Conservative

    McCain and Palin have lowered the political discourse to previously unplumbed depths. They are inciting hatred, division and a polarization that will destroy this country and I genuinely fear for the safety of Obama should he get elected.

    Read the Rolling Stone article on McCain to get the true measure of this fraudulent, spoilt brat.

    He and Palin need to sink into obscurity and we can only hope they haven't already done permanent damage to our culture.

    October 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. Adam

    When I think the McCain campaign has stooped as low as they can, they find additional ways to stoop lower. I have NEVER seen such a disrespectful campaign...EVER! All they have been doing is fueling hatred and fear in order to try to win more votes...they are invoking hatred in their supporters.

    It is sad to say, but I use to respect John McCain back in 2000. As a moderate and fiscal conservative, he seemed to stand for a lot of my values politically. However, after all that is transpired...NO WAY, NO HOW, NO MCCAIN/PALIN. This campaign has continually disgusted me and now to see all this fear mongering....ugh. It makes me sick. McCain should be the one apologizing!

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Cathy from Colorado

    Please take me off of moderation.

    Let's set the record straight, John.

    Mr. Lewis is addressing your and your sidekicks hateful and inflammatory speeches–"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.

    If anyone should apologize, it should be you and your campaign, and not just to Mr. Obama, but to all the citizens of the USA!

    You and Palin are a disgrace.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  13. CA Senior, San Jose

    Character attacks?? That is exactly what McCain and Palin are doing!
    They don't like negative feedback, but they spew it constantly.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  14. Daily prayer

    Please, Please, Please Sen. Obama do not repudiate Lewis' remarks. As far as I am concerned there is nothing to repudiate. And please, please, please Sen. Obama do not follow in the footsteps of your angry opponents. Today, I pray for the highest level of civility coming from all four candidates for the remainder of the campain.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  15. BK in NC

    You must understand that McCain/Palin have nothing to entice Americans to vote for them, so they must play on fear and racism. McCain/Palin are representative of the elitist group that does not care about anyone or anything; other than getting what they want. To them and the Republican Party machine, the end does justify the means.

    It’s all about character or lack of.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. Peter of Oregon

    There is nothing to repudiate. Lewis is speaking the truth.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. Finley, Ohio

    the moment i decide to vote Obama...80 years old White Lady from small town .. in her town There is no progressive talker right-wing talkers on radioall day. she ask obamab a one question ?... she asked him Who Are You? Obama responded to.. I Am Your Son .don’t let them scare you” ...
    .She definately had tears in her eyes .she is voting for obama..

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. in Arizona

    Lewis is correct, the McCain/Palin camp are reigniting a fire that they will not be able to put out.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. Tim

    This is getting scary and dangerous. McCain fought for the same rights that he is now trampling all over. McCain and Palin's behavior is not only disgusting and disgraceful, but it's embarrasing to all Americans. Doris Kerns Goodwin (last night on CNN) accurately compared McCain/Palin's attacks to the 1930's Nazi rhetoric – and that was not a stretch!

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Brian

    What gumption this horrid hypocrite McCain has. You've barely lifted a finger to repudiate the hatred of your "base" Senator McCain, only begrudgingly trying to correct them yesterday after you started getting bad press. Shame on you, Senator McCain. You may have been a war hero, but you're one slimy politician.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. Lisa

    Congressman John Lewis is telling the truth, and Obama has nothing to repudiate. For the record, I'm white, conservative, Republican, and am appalled and disgusted by the way McCain and Palin have conducted themselves.

    I never thought I would say this, but I'm voting for Obama/Biden on election day.

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. ket

    It is clear that McCain has a bunch of NUTS working for him!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. James

    Thats all you see from the REPUBLICANS! Look at the convention they held. it was ALL WHITE MEN and a few WHITE WOMAN..with "THE" token black man.

    Republicans spew their hate every single day and cover it up under the blanket of relgion, chirst and god. They use their bible as the excuse why there are so full of hate when they claim its love.

    The republican party is NOTHING but hating, biggoted, bias, people. Period.

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. Darryl Miller,

    The sad truth about what Congressman Lewis said it is true. Senator McCain and Gov. Palin have set the fire for starting Racial Strife. Allow their people talik about Kill Obama, calling him a terrorist....

    This is said...... Gov. Palin and Dick Chaney at least Dick Chaney had Balls!!!!!

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. DeVone

    another comment; McCain thought his lady choice whold sway theladies vote  but his problem is  he did not chose a lady he chose a maverick  (people over 49 remember ) The Mavericks a tv show we have come to a point in life where color is a fact of life and we acept the fact that we all live in this world togather and we got where  we are togather and for thouse little people who want to iive in theirown little coner the coner has turned into a room what gets me morethese peopl say they are Christians God has no respect of  presonhow could you even think you are Christ like with the things you say and do? Christians has a bleeding heart, understands  right  from wrong even though it hurts bad at times , so for the Mc Cain campand followers Senator Lewis felt it his Christian duty  to make thesehonest remarks

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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