October 11th, 2008
05:20 PM ET
12 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. Alec

    Amazing... I thought an amount of Intelligence would find its way to these comment boards... I was wrong. Are the people writing these ridiculous accusations old enough to vote?

    As John Lewis dances around rhetoric with enough spin to weave a blanket.... you are being spoon fed enough propaganda to choke a horse.

    If you really agree with him, you will get the government you deserve.
    Try living in a socialist country and then decide for whom you will cast your vote.


    October 11, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Steve in Atlanta

    Sadly, the Republican Party of today is not the same as the one I agreed with when REAL conservatives like William Buckley were the guiding forces, not the medieval-thinking "Christian" nutjobs & hate-mongerers apparently in charge of this campaign.

    I'm angry at what 8 yrs of Bush has done to our country and ashamed of the McCain/Palin ticket. McCain has lost his honor this past week and I hope intends to reverse course before some wacko does something that will lead this country to a national tragedy.

    October 11, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    October 11, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. sincolo

    Finally someone who sees the hatred stirred by the McCain campaign. As a woman of minority decent I fear for our nation under a man who allows such bigotry and hatred to be spewed at his rallies. For the first time since I began voting I am truly afraid of what our country could become. A wise man once said the best way to win is to divide and conquer your ememies, do not divide and conquer your nation.

    October 11, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Olivia

    Do any of you realize that Biden have been saying some pretty harsh things about Palin and McCain on his round of speeches?
    Take time to listen...pay attention.....you will be surprised at what this man who was against Obama during the primary will now say about the opposition now that he is vp.

    Pretty mean stuff! He mimics and mocks palin's remarks and is sexist, and of course he also, like his boss, tries to make McCain into a senile, demented and erratic old man. I think the current phrase is "out of touch".

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  6. BG

    Finally, someone said what American people are thinking!!! I've watched the news for the past week with a sick feeling in my stomach. I saw the clip where McCain tried to calm his crowd Friday night, but his ignorance (perhaps) of what HE and PALEN has created is not enough to turn on John Lewis for being a voice of many people watching in horror. What does his campaign need to acknowledge the results of their actions...a violent mob, a death?

    The campaigns are not equal in spewing hate and I am appalled when commentators compare disagreements over issues with hate mongering as if there is no difference.

    If this is how he controls or runs his campaign, how can he automatically "reach across the room" and work with everyone if elected? If he can't control or run a campaign, how can he run a country? Finally, if this is not what McCain wants, then the final question is why is he so easily manipulated by those in his party? I thought we wanted something better.

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  7. Steve

    The Republican Party is the party of greed, ignorance, and hatred. Why anyone would listen to any Republican, especially since Bush, is unbelievable.

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. Ashamed in Brooklyn

    This is right on target. Like so many of my friends we saw it coming. At the end of the day, we will see that this will always be a "white America". I am also afraid for the Obama family. No one can say that my America is not filled on racism. I am sick to my stomach to see it rear it's ugly head in this political campaign, and all of you who want to deny it, it is very shameful. Where were all these supporter of Mcshame his first time around? NOWHERE. Until a black man emerge as the front-runner, all these "supporters" came out.
    SHAME!!!!!!!!!!! ON MCsame, and his side- kick, Sarah

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. indy chris

    I think further back to a time of great economic hardship when a certain individual provoked hatred against scapegoats.

    Got Hitler?

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    yap yap yap.... does McBush have a plan to solve the economic crisis? the Bush War in Iraq? NO? No wonder he sputters on and on about nothing.....

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. Concerned Voter

    Considering John McCain and Lewis have been friendly in the past, I would hope that Sen McCain would listen to what's being said.

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Phil

    I have many white friends who have mentioned to me privately that Sarah Palin is fueling racial hatred in a very subtle and not so subtle way. She wants to bring up Rev Wright and attack Obama as the evil other.

    Thank God for John Lewis. John McCain would be well served to take his councel now if he wants to retain in degree of respectability.

    "You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it is still a pig"

    What is the difference in what John McCain's campaign is during and a pig? Lipstick!

    Is this what is underneath the Pentacostal Movement–a cover for segregation?

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. dave in tx

    Everyone must be careful about stiring up crowds. We must be mindful the Garfield, Lincoln, and Kennedy were killed by men that thought they were being patriotic.

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Republican for Obama

    I give McCain a lot of credit for correcting that woman who called Obama an Arab. My opinion of him went up at that point.

    I blame this entire mess on McCain's strategists and Palin (a complete mental midget).

    McCain wants to win at ALMOST any cost. He drew the line in the sand when he corrected that woman at the rally.

    He should have stopped his strategists from picking his VP and for creating this overt message of hatred right from the beginning. But as all of Republicans know, the Republican party doesn't have an economic message other than cut taxes and Ronald Reagan's trickle down economics.

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. GOP Outrage

    Senator McCain: Did you really think that this past week of having Sarah Palin stir up hatred of Obama would NOT rise up and bite you? Senator Obama does not, in this case, need to apologize until YOU apologize for allowing Sarah Palin to stir up the 'hateful faithful'. She did NOTHING when one of the people in her audience yelled out 'kill him!' in answer to her diatribe. Please, your "outrage" is making me vomit!

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. CMA

    McCain/Palin have repelled more voters than attracting, you can't start stirring anger and use racist codes in the campaign and expect good people to follow you. There are some people wanted to vote McCain for his experience etc, but they will be afraid to be seen in the tank of McCain hatred. Please stop this, start talking about issues that matter to peoples' lives rather than running an aoutrageous smear campaign. When it come McCain lost election, he'll regret himself because his image has been turnished and even will need to retire from public services ( Senate seat).

    October 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Donna

    It is said to say, But it is true. The hateful ugly things that have been said about Mr Obama has truly scared me. There are alot of sick people on both ends of the spectrum. We do not want to feed that kind of hatred and ignorance. And that is exactly what Mr McCain and Mrs Palin has been doing. What? did they think no one noticed

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Mary Jane Green

    My husband and I were attacked twice in Wal Mart because we exercised the right to wear our candidate's t-shirt and button. We no longer wear them because we are fearful for our lives.

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. Brian

    Lewis's comment expose the Truth about the black support for Obama.
    If you're white: YOU'RE GUILTY AS CHARGED!



    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Lissa in Montreal

    Oh, I do hope Sen. Obama does not repudiate the remarks – they were made in the best spirit possible: that of peace and wisdom.

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Dawn

    Mc Cain should had repudiated those supporters as well as Sarah Palin for allowing the ugliness to surface in his and her events.
    Lewis spoke power to truth.

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. elizabeth

    After watching Palin whip up the hatred and furror....I have been heartsick with fear for our country and safety of Barack Obama and his family. Sara Palin especially, is bordering on evil. She seems to think any means justify her ends.

    The Jesus I know and love would condem her actions. I pray for His protection for Barack, Michelle and their children in the swirl of this evil.

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. grandmapat

    Thank you for saying what I and many others have fearfully thought. What frightens me even further is that McCain cannot see this.

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  24. Kirsten

    Oh, cry me a river! As a moderate Democrat, I'm growing sick and tired of the faux outrage and cries of racism by Obama supporters, who were awfully quiet when Obama's pal Wright made racist comments and justified 9/11. I don't like McCain, but there's no way I will vote for Obama, and it is because the majority of his supporters come across as fanatical, anti-white nutjobs. Their hypocrisy and bully tactics are sickening.

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  25. sal NY

    eenie meenie miny moe

    October 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39