BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The feud between Georgia congressman John Lewis and President-elect Donald Trump is prompting swift reaction from both sides of the aisle.
Lewis, a civil rights icon, questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency during an interview with NBC News over the weekend.
“I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis told “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Trump fired back via Twitter, calling Lewis, “all talk, no action.”
That exchange did not go unnoticed as elected officials and civil rights activists gathered Monday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Buffalo.
“It is degrading, and it hurts all of us, and at a time in our nation’s history as this transfer of power takes place, the president-elect of the United States should know better,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy, a Democrat from Buffalo.
In 1965, Lewis was severely injured by police during a march for voting rights in Alabama.
“This is a man who had his skull cracked fighting for civil rights in the 1960s,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “John Lewis is not all talk. He’s an American hero.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, told CNN that like his Democratic colleagues, Lewis is a fair subject for criticism.
“I do appreciate what him being a civil rights icon, but I would also say that it doesn’t make us immune from criticism or debate,” said Paul.
Lewis is said to be among nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers who say they will not attend the inauguration, prompting a response from Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
“I was deeply disappointed to see someone of his stature question the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s election as president and say he’s not attending the inauguration,” Pence said.
Appearing Monday on Fox Business News, WNY congressman Chris Collins, a Republican, compared Lewis to a “spoiled child.”
“He’s pouting. He lost. It’s like a spoiled child and we’ve seen it with the others,” Collins said. “They can’t get over the fact they lost. And what do spoiled little kids do. They run around and throw a tantrum.”
Rev. Mark Blue, president of the NAACP Buffalo branch, believes President-elect Trump should be held to a higher standard.
“He has to learn how to build bridges and not offend one of the greatest civil rights leaders who had taken whips and batons for the right to vote, for the right to ride on the bus,” said Blue.
The son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says he had a “very constructive” meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on the holiday marking King’s life.
Martin Luther King III played down Trump’s recent claim that Rep. John Lewis was “all talk.” He told reporters at Trump Tower on Monday that in the heat of emotion, “a lot of things get said on both sides.”
King says the focus of his meeting with Trump was to improve voter participation and stress the need to bring America together.
He says Trump assured him it’s his intent to reach out to all Americans, even those who did not support him.