Pence, Priebus call Lewis comments “irresponsible” and “deeply disappointing”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with Martin Luther King III

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Donald Trump’s vice president and top aides joined the U.S. president-elect in criticizing the comments of civil rights activist and lawmaker U.S. Representative John Lewis, who on Sunday said Trump was not a “legitimate president” just days before the inauguration. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he thought hacking by Russians had helped Trump, a Republican, get elected in November. Lewis said he does not plan to attend Trump’s swearing in on Friday, the first time he would miss such an event since being elected to the House in 1986. Lewis’ comments have led to nineteen other Democratic representatives who say they will skip the ceremony as a statement of their disapproval of the incoming president. Those include; Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Rep. John Conyers, D- Mich., Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rep. Adam Smith, D- Wash., Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Rep. José E. Serrano, D-NY, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., Rep. Mark Takano, D- Calif., Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-NY, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-NY.Vice President-elect Mike Pence, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump spokesman Sean Spicer characterized Lewis’ remarks as disappointing and damaging to the reputation of U.S. democracy.”We honor the sacrifice that he made,” Pence said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “For someone of his stature not just in the civil rights movement but in voting rights to make a comment that he did not consider Donald Trump to be a legitimate president I think is deeply disappointing. I hope he reconsiders both statements.”Pence said he had attended both of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations. He said at a time when the country was facing challenges both at home and abroad, Americans should look for ways to come together and work together.The 76-year-old Lewis, who has been a civil rights leader for more than half a century, was beaten by police during a march he helped lead in 1965 in Selma, Alabama, drawing attention to hurdles preventing blacks from voting.He protested alongside leader Martin Luther King Jr. that day and on other occasions. The spat comes ahead of Monday’s federal holiday that honors King.Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Priebus said Lewis’ comments, given his position in society, were irresponsible.”We need folks like John Lewis, and others who I think have been champions of voter rights, to actually recognize the fact that Donald Trump was duly elected,” said Priebus. “I think putting the United States down across the world is not something that a responsible person does.”Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Obama believed that Trump was the freely elected president. McDonough, however, said concerns raised by Lewis and other Democrats about Russia’s interference in the election were not trivial.”My hope would be that the president-elect will reach out to…John Lewis, who has done so many things over the course of his life, to try to work this out,” McDonough said on CNN’s State of the Union.Such a gesture, he said, would show Americans that the nation is united and send a message to the Russians that “their efforts to divide us, to weaken us, to advance their own interests, at the expense of ours, are going to fail.”Trump’s aides defended his hard-hitting response on Twitter on Saturday that Lewis “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested),” instead of complaining about the Nov. 8 election results.”It was John Lewis that attacked Donald Trump. Donald Trump has a right to respond to that, and he did. And forcefully,” Spicer said on Fox News.At least 10 other Democratic U.S. politicians have said they also plan to skip the inauguration.On Monday, the youngest daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the house of worship in Lewis’ district where King once preached.She told the audience not to give up hope and “Don’t be afraid of who sits in the White House.””God can triumph over Trump,” she said, drawing a standing ovation.Bernice King also gave a nod to Lewis by standing up for his congressional district, which Trump derided in his Twitter comments as “crime-infested” and “falling apart.””Many of you here are proud residents of the fifth congressional district and we are proud of the progress we have made here and in this city,” she said.The service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church takes place every year on Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday honoring a man who championed the cause of racial justice until he was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.This year it falls days before Barack Obama ends his second term as the country’s first African-American president. Trump takes the oath of office as his successor on Friday.