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

McCain calls on Obama to repudiate 'shocking' Lewis comments

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/11/art.johnlewis.gi.jpg caption="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. lou

    All you democrats are paranoid. Anything happens, You all run and yell RACISM.
    stop being so paranoid. ITs not all about race.
    and stop using it as an excuse.

    Palin has been under a microscope since the beginning. she can not do anything without people saying something negative.

    Why dont you all put Biden under microscope. Why dont you go to his state and find some goods. I am sure there is lots.

    Stop being so paranoid

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Sarah

    It's time for Obama to give his speech about Race.

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Bridgette Davis

    I fully agree with John Lewis' comments. As a public high school teacher in both Atlanta and Chicago for the last 6 years, I am fully aware of the implications of such anger, disrespect, and aggression for my students, my colleagues, and the communities that I have served as a member of Teach For America and an alumnus of the movement for educational equity in this nation.
    John McCain should be apologizing for his work to insight such anger with adds that call Obama "too risky" and question his integrity and patriotism. John Lewis said what many Americans have been thinking...that the McCain/Palin ticket is actually increasing the likelihood of violent separatism and prejudice in this country that could have endless consequences over the course of the next 4 months and beyond.

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

    Well said, John Lewis! Too bad if the truth hurts, McCain! There is a difference between negative remarks and incendiary remarks, as have been made by Sarah Palin. There is no exscuse for the lies, the fear-mongering, and the kind of talk that encourages a lynch mob mentality. If this is what Republicans have to do when they are losing, they deserve to lose BIG TIME.

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  5. Dave

    Yeah, Lewis crossed the line. How dare he say the obvious?

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  6. Say no to the Republi-klans

    Finally somebody had to guts to say it!! We all have been thinking the same thing.

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. Janice illinois

    Enough, Barack Obama has had to denounce just about everybody he has had contact with to please everybody else. This just isn't right, If your going to vote for a man you do it because of what he is not what his friends say or do. We all have acquaintances that might not be considered good enough by some, and I don't want to be judged for what anybody else does.

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. Nina in Orlando

    Thank you, Rep. Lewis!

    McShame, shut up!

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. Ronald

    John Lewis is an export in this subject he lived through hateful speach and hateful actions. Lewis is calling a spade a spade. I call on McCain to repudiate his hateful divisive campaign and apologize to John Lewis and the American people. Has McCain even apologized to Obama for his supporter calling UNTRUTHFULLY callig him a muslim, terrorist, threatening to kill kim and using his middle name.

    McCain has no honor!

    October 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. Colin

    Thank you, John Lewis.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. rose

    Hey John,

    I guess you don't ever watch the news. You are missing the part where you and Sarah are running the ugliest campaign in US Presidential Politics.
    But after reading Rolling Stones, Make-Believe Maverick, the only person you are trying to impress is you.
    John you were born to be a leader. Your Grandfather and father, may the rest peace, must be rolling over in their graves.
    You have done nothing but disgrace their names. Shame.


    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Robert Allen, Las Vegas

    McShame/Palling Campaign Supporters:

    The Religious Right is neither.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. mitch

    john mccain is without the gene that allows him to be ashamed.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. marilyn rabinowitz

    McCain should have his supporters to the apologies. Palin and McCain have supported this undercurrent of racism throughout this campaign. They are desperate to try and win under any circumstances. Cong. Lewis is right.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. Enough is Enough from Dallas, TX

    Are you kidding? This is exactly what MCain/Palin have been doing. What is wrong with this man? Maybe he needs to rewind some of his neagative campaign ads. Or listen to himself and Palin at all his rallies last week. Has he really "forgotten" how they were enraging their supporters everytime he and Palin asked "who is Barack Obama"? They knew exactly what they were doing...it just turned on them and NOW McCain wants Obama on his side? MCCAIN STARTED THIS RACIAL MUDSLINGING...THIS IS SCARY!!!

    Lewis was right, McCain/Palin "have been sowing seeds of hatred"!

    With Sarah Palin actively egging this on and John McCain at least condoning it, it's not too far removed to see physical harm coming to somebody. This needs to stop.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  16. Lisa

    So is this where we are heading? Is this what the press wants to see? Is this what the American people so desire? The white Honky is finally getting theirs?

    Listen to ourselves, "The chickens are coming home to roost?", compliments of Reverend Wright, the rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan (oops, Reverend Farrakhan), Alcee Hastings and now John Lewis.
    Where do we expect this to go? Since we are being honest, then lets ask ourselves, what do we intend our end result to be with all of these important people using their place in society to make such statements?

    Lets be honest. Get to it. Get on with it. Get beyond it! In the process let's take responsibility for our own actions in society. Be a better person every day. Only then will change occur.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Littlebit

    Watching that video and seeing those people telling John McCain they were afraid of an Obama Presidency, and telling him to “do something” makes me think that Congressman Lewis’s words were not strong enough. The relationship between Black and White is fine as long as a Black Man is not in a position to become the first African America President. In other words, we stay in our place.

    What in Gods name do they think is going to happen?

    I became nausea watching and listening to John McCain telling these individuals; “ you don’t have to be afraid of Senator Obama, he’s a decent person, and you don’t have to be afraid of the Obama Presidency”. To me he appeared to be enjoying every minute of it. I don’t think John McCain and Sarah Palin started this mess. It has been there, beneath the surface just waiting for someone to provide the opening and John McCain and Sarah Palin opened the door and are doing a very good job of feeding it and keeping it going. If anyone needs to back off it's them.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. SC

    Don't be afraid. He is just making true statements, not baseless and worthless accusations. You have done whatever you want and how don't call upon Obama to stop this. I don't think Obama can stop this because all he has in common with this guy is both are black and democrat. He is just simply exercising his freedom of speech. Remember McFalin, what goes around comes around. So, shut up, take it and move. For God's sake, get a life, McBush.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. Mario Van Essche

    Lewis is right, but McCain simply doesn't get it! And Palin all ready lost it.

    So McCain-Palin wil loose it.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  20. Puff

    I am sick to death of Nobama pulling the race card every step of the way. I hope on Wednesday during the debate McCain challenges Nobama to show his birth certificate to all of America.
    Let's see what the Messiah and his followers have to say then. They will all find out very soon that they are backing an Indonesian Muslim for president.
    He will be kicked out the country and told not to come back.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. American Pie

    The thruth hurts...doesnt it Senator McCain.

    October 11, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Anthony from NY

    It is John McCain who should stop Gov. [Sarah] Palin from sowing the seeds of hatred and division not John Lewis. John is just commenting on what is going on.

    John is not the VP running with Obama and is not part of his campain but Palin running with McCain and he should control what she is saying.

    October 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. lilacs

    Thank you Rep Lewis for saying what most americans have been thinking. No apologizing from you or sen. Obama is needed. I am a 61 year old white woman who will vote for Sen Obama not because he is any of any one race but because he is the right person for the job at this time. Thre is only one race of people on this planet and that is the HUMAN RACE!!!! When we can finally accept that then we will finally have peace on earth.

    October 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  24. James, Virginia Beach, Virginia

    After you hurl sleazy and deceptive attacks,then claim to be the victim?! Typical sleazy Karl Rove Tactic, or has it just become a typical Republican tactic? McCain and Palin deserve the anger because they are whipping up the lynch mobs. Nothing like mindless angry old people stomping around a small arena. McShameless!

    October 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. Bellamy

    Spare me. John McCain needs to repudiate the words of Rev. Arnold Conrad said today before John started his talk

    "I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,"

    "And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day,"

    Not sure what the "bible" this so called pastor is but I am Christian and I am supporting Obama and I do so because his faith matches his positions on healthcare, jobs, education, care for children, care for our wounded war veterans bringing an end to the needless war in Iraq.

    October 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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