By Glynn Wilson –
Why would Congressman and Civil Rights Icon John Lewis of Georgia lie and taint his own reputation and legacy just to help Hillary Clinton beat progressive Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary race for President?
At a press conference announcing the Congressional Black Caucus PAC’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, Lewis told reporters he never encountered Bernie Sanders when the they both worked with the Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s.
“I never saw him (Sanders). I never met him,” Lewis said. “I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed (the) voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President (Bill) Clinton.”
It turns out this was a mistake to say, since the facts are so easy to check.
Lewis contributed a section in a book published in 2001 called Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton, from Hope to Harlem” which offers an African American perspective on President Clinton, according to the Daily Kos.
“The first time I heard of Bill Clinton was in the early 70s,” Lewis writes in the book. “I was living in Georgia, working for the Southern Poverty Law organization, when someone told me about this young, emerging leader in Arkansas who served as attorney general, then later became governor.”
So this was the first time Lewis heard of Bill Clinton. The first time he met him was in 1991, in his own words.
“I think I paid more attention to him at the 1988 Democratic Convention, when he was asked to introduce the presidential candidate and took up far more time than was allotted to him,” Lewis wrote. “After he became involved with the Democratic Leadership Council, I would run into him from time to time. But it was one of his aides, Rodney Slater, who actually introduced us in 1991 and asked me if I would support his presidency.”
The Democratic Leadership Council was a non-profit organization founded in 1985, 20 years after the Voting Rights Bill of 1965 was passed and signed into law.
Hillary Clinton would have been a freshman at Wellesley College in 1965, where she graduated in 1969.
Bill Clinton was a sophomore at Georgetown University in 1965. He graduated in 1968.
There’s no evidence they were involved in the civil rights struggle in the South, although while attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton played rugby and did participate in Vietnam War protests. He organized an event in October 1969 calling for a Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, was involvement in the civil rights movement, and has irrefutable proof in the form of newspaper clips from the time. He was an active participant in the movement during his three years at the University of Chicago, according to Mother Jones.
Sanders may not have met John Lewis, but he did attend the 1963 March on Washington, at which Lewis spoke. Most of his work was in and around Hyde Park, where he became involved with the campus chapter of CORE shortly after transferring from Brooklyn College in 1961. During Sanders’ first year in Chicago, a group of apartment-hunting white and black students had discovered that off-campus buildings owned by the university were refusing to rent to black students, in violation of the school’s policies. CORE organized a 15-day sit-in at the administration building, which Sanders helped lead. (James Farmer, who co-founded CORE and had been a Freedom Rider with Lewis, came to the University of Chicago that winter to praise the activists’ work.) The protest ended when George Beadle, the university’s president, agreed to form a commission to study the school’s housing policies.
Sanders was one of two students from CORE appointed to the commission, which included the neighborhood’s alderman and state representative, in addition to members of the administration. But not long afterward, Sanders blew up at the administration, accusing Beadle of reneging on his promise and refusing to answer questions from students on its integration plan. In an open letter in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, Sanders vented about the double-cross.
That spring, with Sanders as its chairman, the university chapter of CORE merged with the university chapter of SNCC. Sanders announced plans to take the fight to the city of Chicago, and in the fall of 1962 he followed through, organizing picketers at a Howard Johnson in Cicero. Sanders told the Maroon he wanted to keep the pressure on the restaurant chain after the arrest of 12 CORE demonstrators in North Carolina for trying to eat at a Howard Johnson there.
Sanders left his leadership role at the organization not long afterward. His grades suffered so much from his activism that a dean asked him to take some time off from school. (He didn’t take much interest in his studies, anyway.) But he continued his activism with CORE and SNCC. In August of 1963, not long after returning to Chicago from the March on Washington, Sanders was charged with resisting arrest after protesting segregation at a school on the city’s South Side. He was later fined $25, according to the Chicago Tribune.
While John Lewis is a well respected member of Congress and clearly played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement, his unflinching support of Hillary Clinton to be the first female president — his willingness to lie — may end up backfiring.
As voters head to the polls in South Carolina on February 27, and other Southern states vote in caucuses and primaries on Super Tuesday March 1, this lie could haunt the Clinton campaign.
Voters will go to the polls to vote in state primaries March 1 in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. Clinton is expected to do well in those states primarily due to strong support from African American voters. What will happen when they learn that Bernie Sanders was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and Hillary Clinton was not?
Now the test will be whether the mainstream media on those states, including corporate chain newspapers and local television news stations, will simply report the truth.
Someone needs to ask the question: Why would John Lewis lie?
“Sanders is the real progressive Democrat in the race,” said one Alabama Democrat at the Mobile Bay Democratic Party debate party Thursday night in the old Mobile Press-Register building. “Hillary Clinton is a mainstream moderate at best with close ties to Wall Street.”
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.