Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, an organizer in the 1963 March on Washington who has served 16 terms in the House of Representatives, said he will skip the event on Saturday – unless the president backs out beforehand.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, joined Lewis in announcing they won't attending the museum's opening because the president is expected to be there, contending his attendance and "hurtful policies" would be an "insult" to civil rights leaders.
“After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” Lewis and Thompson stated. “President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.”
The duo said that the civil rights struggles represented in the new museum “exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi” but President Trump’s “disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespect the efforts” of Mississippi’s greatest civil rights champions.
“After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum,” Lewis and Thompson stated.
The White House expressed disappointment in their decision.
“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”
Responding to the White House, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, called the criticism "laughable."
“It’s laughable that the White House is criticizing John Lewis and Bennie Thompson for not attending the opening of a civil rights museum that honors the sacrifice of ....wait..... John Lewis, Bennie Thompson, and many others. This White House is not serious about civil rights," Richmond said in a statement. "From dismantling the civil rights division in DOJ to equating peaceful people who protested racism to Neo-nazi’s and White Supremacists, they just don’t get it.”
This isn’t the first time President Trump’s presence at a museum has upset some African-Americans.
Just before the inauguration last January, then President-elect Trump pulled out of plans to tour the National Museum of African American History and Culture in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, citing “scheduling issues.”
Trump ultimately visited the museum more than a month later on Feb. 21.