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Trump engages in war of words with John Lewis ahead of inauguration

President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a news cenference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City.
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President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a news cenference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City.

Donald Trump struck back at criticism leveled at him by Georgia congressman John Lewis on Saturday—eliciting bipartisan critcism in the process—after suggsting the Democrat should focus on fixing his "crime infested" district in response to a remark that questioned the president-elect's legitimacy.

In an interview on Friday, Lewis—a political elder statesman who was severely beaten during a march in Selma, Alabama during the civil rights era—dismissed Trump as not being a "legitimate president."

Lewis is widely regarded as a civil rights icon, and was a vocal supporter of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College by a wide margin.

Trump, however, struck back early Saturday in a series of posts on Twitter. Fresh from a controversy earlier this week, in which he responded to a critique from actress Meryl Streep, the president-elect accused Lewis of neglecting the needs of a district that was in "horrible shape" and doing little other than "talk, talk, talk."

According to 2015 data from the Census Bureau, Georgia's 5th Congressional District—which is majority African-American and includes most of Atlanta—as a poverty rate of more than 17 percent, above the national average of 13.5 percent.

A 2015 report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ranked Atlanta as 14 among 20 of the most violent U.S. cities.

The exchange sparked a new verbal slugfest between the president-elect and a prominent Democrat on the eve of his inauguration, and days before Martin Luther King Day. Lewis's supporters and Democratic colleagues, and even a few of the president-elect's own party members, immediately rushed to Lewis' defense.


The real estate mogul's response stirred a social media hornet's nest, with legions of Lewis supporters rushing to defend the Georgia Democrat. Evan McMullin, a Republican who challenged Trump for the presidency as an independent candidate, also defended Lewis's "selfless patriotism."


Separately, Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse roused to Lewis' defense, also posting on Twitter than Lewis "helped change the world" by putting himself on the front lines of the turbulent fight for civil rights.