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Federal agents dispersing protesters in Portland on Saturday.
How to honor a civil rights icon — and how not to.
When expressing your admiration for a departed civil rights hero, there’s always the temptation to wax poetic, to ponder the greater ideals of our society and the role of struggle in the fight for human equality.
But before you get to all that, just make sure you’re talking about the right guy.
John Lewis, who died on Friday at 80, co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington before eventually living out the promise in his own activism by becoming a member of Congress for over 30 years. He was among the most widely revered figures on Capitol Hill, referred to as “the conscience of the Congress,” and his death drew tributes and eulogies from all corners.
Trump put out a restrained — if slightly grammatically challenged — statement on Saturday, tweeting: “Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.”
But it’s probably better to be perfunctory than to be flat-out wrong — as two G.O.P. senators found out the hard way on Saturday. In separate social media posts, Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska put up elegantly worded tributes to Lewis’s virtuous life and work. Both were accompanied by pictures of themselves, not alongside Lewis but with Elijah Cummings, another long-serving Black member of the House, who died last year.
In his Facebook post, Sullivan wrote: “It was an honor to have served alongside John for a small portion of his impressive career of service, and to have joined him at the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.” Sullivan’s staff later removed both the photo, which showed him and Cummings standing in front of the museum, and the reference to his and Lewis’s being there together.
Rubio took down his offending tweet and replaced it with another acknowledging the mistake, this time featuring a photo with Lewis.