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. Jasmine

    The comments are not beyond the pale. Rather they are perfectly fitting. You can't blame Rep. Lewis for having strong feelings about that sort of hate speech (from Palin) when he has had dogs turned on him in the south. I was disgusted when some young guy at a rally stood up and asked McCain something about turning the hound on Obama. There's no ambiguity about the historical implications of that and if I recall correctly Mccain smiled or laughed.

    While McCain has since called for the rhetoric to be turned down I question what took him so long or is he playing it both ways? He should spare us the faux outrage – his unqualified runningmate is an instigator and that's evident for most to see.

    (Please post CNN – my comments never seem to make it on)

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. J Just sayin

    Could this possibly be a set up, to bring race to the front and center by two ol buddies? Just sayin!!

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  3. RSB

    Apparently he can dish it out but he can't take it. After everything said by his campaign last week why should we expect Obama to apologize?
    After the results of Palin's hearing why should we listen to her at all?

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. catmom

    Rob, have you heard Wright and Farrakhan say anything about McCain and Palin? Are either one of them running for office? Perhaps you should look into some of the ministers that support McCain/Palin, you will see that they are not to different than things Wright and Farrakhan have said.

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. Patty

    Right On Lewis! The Conservative Right that seems to play up to the values of the religious population has hit an all time low.

    Read the Book of Proverbs and see how McCain & Palin are really off base with their party lines.

    Proverbs 6:12-19 (NIV) A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart – he will always stir up dissension. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant: he will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy.
    There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, A FALSE WITNESS THAT POURS OUT LIES AND A MAN THAT STIRS UP DISSENSION AMONG BROTHERS.

    While John McCain and Sarah Palin are not the only leaders in our great nation that have fallen short in regards to the teachings in Proverbs (Rev. Wright for example), they are the ones who are running for the highest offices of our country. Their hunger for power and greed has motivated them to stoop to such levels as endangering the life of their opponent by false accusations, striking fear into the hearts and minds of those they can.

    People that listen to and believe the lies that come out of the McCain/Palin camp and aren't able to, or are unwilling to discern the truth have no right to cast a vote. We need to vote responsibly!!!

    I am appalled at the question posed by the woman at MCain's campaign stop. She thought Obama was an Arab. Okay...does she not know that you have to be BORN IN THE USA to run for President? Why is this woman voting?

    Hats off to Obama for NOT responding negatively to the McCain/Palin "verbal Dynamite". Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

    Christian for Obama ! !

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Ed D

    Palin started the name calling and ever sinc the McCain campaign reaks of natzism. Calling Obama terroist, unamerican and getting the crowd to yell terroist, get him, kill him crowds at a Palin rally yelling at a tv black sound men to "get down boy".What does all that tell you.
    All the McCain campaign is missing are the BROWN SHIRTS.

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. Samantha Jackson

    It's true! Too many people have been getting the feeling that these McCain/Palin rallies resemble those of the Klu Klux Klan...It's been terribly scary to watch. I'm afraid that if those two get in there, there will be NO one there to represent me. When I look at these rallies I don't see any representation of myself. When I hear people in the audience at the Palin rallies say "Kill em! Kill Obama!" there is a problem. Anyone that sees it differently is obviously a stark ignorant and racist supporter.

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    maccain and the huntress palinremind me of the old line


    mccain thinks he's dealing with people he can manipulate with always saying "My Friends."
    I don't have friends who incite racial tensions, lie in in the face of the truth and picks vp for votes for votes not because of the talents she has other than making babies. "...he who votes mccain gives up all hope

    john bracci"

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Wayne D. PA

    I don't think McCain is a racist but I don't know about Palin but John Lewis comments came to late after McCain said that Obama would make a good president John McCain know the race is over because he almost started a cival war a race war divided the great USA like someone wants to do in Alaska. OBAMA/BIDEN 08 MIGHT GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS THE BEST TAG TEAM.

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. Lee in Ohio

    The kind of racial hatred that members of republican audiences have recently been spewing is not only what the extreme right wants, it's what they also feel and believe. Especially Palin. She is completely evil. Should Senator Obama be elected, as I pray he will be, the U.S. Secret Service had better be on their game.

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. You sure about that?

    Wasn't Bull Wallace a Democrat.
    Ironic that one of the biggest racists of all time belonged to the same party as you congressman.

    Perhaps you should read the blogs here and see some of the hate from your own side of the political spectrum.

    October 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Peg

    THANK YOU, Congressman Lewis!
    May our nation's violence be healed.

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  13. Marty, Virginia

    Ya'll come out to NASCAR Monday to see Sarah Palin in Virginia. Already 100,000 tickets have been subscribed to.

    She buried Obama in the debates by drawing 10 million more people to her debate and then drew 60,000 in Orlando for what is becoming for her-a mini rally. This woman draws em in.

    Sarah Palin 2012 & 2016'–President

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  14. Brad

    John McCain was a dedicated, patriot, public servant for decades. First in the Navy, then as an elected Official he served our country. Now he has sold his soul in the name of becoming president.

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. slimsista

    Oh My!!! Looks likes McCain/Palin has caused quite a stir!!!! Oh and not "Ms. TrooperGate!!! LOL...

    God said there will be false witnesses....watch out McCain/Palin...

    You are a mean, power hungry and have a dark spirit....Anyone who has someone pray witches away from them......That's insane....And you ask Who is Obama?.....WHO IS SARAH PALIN?

    May God Bless us all....

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. MarioB. from Berlin for OBAMA/BIDEN

    well guys, I would say a little truth is in Lewis' comments. He's not wrong.
    Look at McCain's rallies, I'm really FRIGHTENED; some right-winged extremist might kill Obama before Election Day. Imagine what would happen to that country, if this nightmare became true.

    I hope it won't be so.
    And I hope America votes AGAINST racism and FOR OBAMA!

    Obama/Biden in a landslide!

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. Eric

    As an immigrant i am scared of Mccain/palin campaign.This is exactly how immigrants face with USCIS. It seems that whoseever name appears to be exotic or Musilum as a terrorist. The campaign not realised that the America's future relation with foreign nations based on mutual respect. I think America is much more better than Mccain/palin beliefs. The world is watching America.We don't expect such kind of opinion from great nation.

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Adrienne

    If McCain is defending the people that have sent hate filled emails and scream hate speach about Obama at his rallies... that IS HUGE NEWS. You betcha.

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. AIB

    By the way, John McCain and the RNC need to apologize to the American people, The citizens of Illinois and students at UC.

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. ET

    No apology is owed. Wake up McCain the truth was spoken.

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Judi

    Thank you Mr. Lewis. Our political leaders have a very serious and ethical responsibility to maintain a climate that is representative of our democracy in their campaigns. Who remembers Joe McCarthy ?

    October 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. KC

    Rep. Lewis is correct. Any intelligent thinking person knows how dangerous the recent rhetoric has been at the McCain-Palin rallies.

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

    I agree with Lewis. John McCain being forced to defend Obama against the angry racist mob proves that they are an angry racist mob. Duh.

    October 11, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. Frank

    McCain & Palin spent the last two weeks trying to tie Obama to a former terrorist and now they are surprised they are bringing out the extremists and racists. They thought that out really well ahead of time...... dirty politics breeds dirty results.

    October 11, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  25. Ross Furrier

    Sarah Palin reminds me alot like Hitler. She could easily be the drving force of a bunch of new browshirts and jackbooted thugs...you had better watch out for this wannabe Hitleresque female.

    October 11, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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