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. Sara

    Are you serious okay, now my opinion, McCain is getting senile!!!!!! nothing makes sense that comes out of his mouth SCARY

    October 11, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  2. JWR

    What kind(s) of medication is McCain on?

    October 11, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. Calling all Witch Doctors

    I can't wait to see the newest installment of McCain's 'I'm a POW Hizzy Fit' to run away from another problem he created.

    October 11, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  4. BK

    Representative Lewis was at Selma. He is simply calling out McCain/Felon and comparing what he sees now with what he saw then. The truth hurts, and if McCain/Felon cannot see it – then shame on them. Of course they see it – of course they know they have gone too far – thats why McCain is pulling back on the hate speech.

    Should Obama repudiate Lewis for speaking his opinion? – NO – Obama has nothing to do with it

    October 11, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |

    We know John McCain fought for this country honorable. Let’s be very clear, he is rewarded immensely for his service. I don’t know what else he wants from this country? There are very less fortunate veterans virtually from all the wars this country fought. The homeless veterans do not complain that they are not presidents, they complain because their country reneged on its promise to them.

    October 11, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  6. lynn

    With the rhetoric of the McCain campaign.....especially Palin's hateful and snarkey comments....what do they expect? Of course the lunatic fringe comes out and it's fueled by the inuendo and outright comments of both the candidates.....especially Palin who relishes her job as being the attack dog for the campaign.

    October 11, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. Rhonda in KY

    P.S. I'm a white person in KY voting for Obama.

    October 11, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Vote for Change

    Hatred begets Hatred.

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath and think pleasant thoughts to soothe their emotions at this point. We will each have a chance to vote very soon, and our voices will be heard in this great democracy we love.

    October 11, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  9. Liz

    McCain is the candidate and therefore, responsible for his campaign. Who is giving these hatemonkers the microphone and putting them in the position of doing introductions? McCain and his people that's who.

    And this Palin evil-doer...the hockey moms and the women who have spewed that "she's just like me" or "one of us" – that scares me if it's true. So many with so much hate inside.

    I pray for our country and it's survival through this and for Senator Obama's safety. A good man trying to honor his country by doing good.

    October 11, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. John

    I respected McCain in the past. I am ashamed that I ever wanted to vote for him. He has turned the Republican Party into a hate group. I have voted Republican all my life. I can never again.

    October 11, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. Eric Cooper

    @ Ridgeway – You can tell a lot a bout a man based on the comments he is willing to attach to himself in a public forum. "Shock of shocks a black guy supporting Obama." I wonder if you even see the irony in your own statement. I hope you're able to step outside your little box one day and see that the world truly is a big, wonderful and diverse place.

    The Obama was right to repudiate the comparison to Wallace and the 60's, but the statements by Lewis are not wrong. It is sad state of affairs when a politician is being begged by his supporters to attack a man not on his policies, but on surface issues never fully researched, but brought to the forefront as if they were cold hard facts. I'm sorry, but some of these people are finding it hard to hide their hoods.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 11, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. Carol in Florida

    As a white American, I can only say that Rep. Lewis did not say anything that was not true. The McCain-Palin ticket for the last two weeks have been stoking the crowd to make these vile and down right threatening statements. After watching some of their townhall rallies I thought I was watching a Ku Klux Klan or Skin head rally instead of a Presidental rally. If anything happens to Senator Obama, John McCain has a lot to answer.

    October 11, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. SB in NoVA

    Forget it McCain ... you and Hateful Barbie have sown the seeds. Now you think all you have to say is "don't be scared of Obama"? Not only are you using racism to try win an election ... you ARE INCITING FEAR IN UNITED STATES CITIZENS ... isn't THAT terrorism?????? Domestic terrorism?????

    I watched the one lady in the red shirt who said Obama was an Arab. She was truly scared. She believed in what you told her to, "Who is Barack Obama?" "He pals around with terrorists." She believed you and now she is scared. Are you happy now?

    You are a disgrace!

    Obama/Biden 08-12

    October 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  14. No Hillary = No Obama

    If you don't think the so-called Bradley Effect isn't alive – just look at the McCain rally with all those angry people. That's the Bradley Effect unfolding right before your eyes. Add that to the 18 million Hillary supporters who Obama raised his middle finger to and see how many return the gesture on election day. Yep, that's what I call Rock The Vote.

    October 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. Hmmm

    Be careful Ridegway...your mullet is hanging awfully low, and you're looking a bit red about the neck.

    October 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  16. Joel Parkes

    McCain has always been a feisty dude and he is doing the best he can with a terrible political party that has no hope of winning after what Bush has done. I believe that we will start to see a more graceful side to McCain as the election date draws near and, after seeing he has no chance, he will be doing what he can to at least make the Republican brand palatable for the future. I still can't help but respect a guy who, when offered release from a Vietnamese prison camp, refused unless his fellow prisoners could go with him. Don't get me wrong, however. I wouldn't vote for the guy, but I do admire what he has achieved in his life.

    October 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  17. jpinaz

    I voted early for OBAMA. Everytime Mc Cain/Palin is on T.V. I change the channel. Have we forgot this is THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA year 2008 not the 1960.

    October 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  18. elisabeth

    this whole thing is just plain stupid....sadly, there are lot of folks buying into it. Of course it is dangerous what the campaign is doing, most of all Palin. Only ignorance and arrogance can do that. Igniting the base feelings of a mob is bound to create disaster...do they know what they are doing or are they that ignorant? In terms of Palin whatever she advocates and stands for is just empty rethoric. I am a working mother of 2 healthy children...for her to be pro life and not being at home with them is not pro family, opposite. It is ruthless self-importance.

    October 11, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  19. McCainLostMyVote

    i am have been writing to Republican senators and congreeman that McCain and Palin sound like KKK cheer leaders. They are disgusting. Palin is clearly a cessionist and traitor. She should be prosecuted for treason

    October 11, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  20. Alaska

    Anonymous said...
    On Daily Kos, an interesting article about the building of the Palin's house, and how it coincided with the building of the super new sports complex, and how Todd Palin says he built it with the help of some friends!!!
    Hope we have some investigative reporters out there who could do some follow up, do you have any Alaskan bloggers?

    October 11, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  21. TheRealThing

    Please, please, please, John McCain cry me a river!

    October 11, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  22. Marie

    John McCain is a very pathetic and desparate man. All I hear is the rhetoric that he hides behind and all I see is an egotist trying to attain the top postion of the presidency any way he can.

    The only people that need to apologize are John McCain and Sarah Palin. They have done nothing but spew fear, hatred and division when this counrty desparately needs to be pulling together. We don't need a bully and his parrot running this great country further into the ground. We need a leader.
    Obama 08

    October 11, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  23. VETS4Obama

    Impeach McShame's smart mouthed, eye candy power abuser now!!! She is the pig in lipstick who is inciting the mobs!

    October 11, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  24. Shannon Wolfe

    What John McCain and Palin
    are doing is more detrimental than a "blatant" racist. It
    is beyond disturbing and it is beyond belief that a person who is
    running for the President of the United States could be so divisive. He is purposely feeding into racism and prejudice. It has been a sad and frightening week to watch as McCain and Palin fuel the flames of racism in our country. Our beautifully DIVERSE country!

    When Barack Obama is elected President of the United States it will be an incredible day! We can celebrate unity and diversity. Barack Obama has given his all to get to this point and I know that he will give his all to us as the President. I can not wait to celebrate!

    Our children are experiencing this historical moment and it is only the beginning. Barack has broken down barriers and It has not been easy but he has faced it with dignity and determination. Before Barack there were many more African Americans who whittled away at these barriers to allow him to break through. It has been such a long journey. I am thankful to each and every person who struggled but kept pushing forward.

    Barack Obama is intelligent, level headed and has all of our best interest at heart. He will be our next President!

    Thank you Barack and Michelle Obama!

    October 11, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. Janet American Abroad

    The McCain & Palin campaign should look in a mirror first!

    October 11, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
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