"I won’t be going, no," he said when asked about any plans to pay respects to Lewis, before departing the White House for a trip to North Carolina.
Donald Trump on Monday told reporters that he does not plan to visit the Capitol to honor the late civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis. "I won’t be going, no," he said when asked about any plans to pay respects to Lewis, before departing the White House for a trip to North Carolina. While the president was notably absent from the prestigious ceremony, the former vice president—now the presumptive Democratic nominee—Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, paid their final respects to Lewis as he lay in state at the US Capitol Rotunda.
"I won't be going."— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) July 27, 2020
Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House that he would not go to pay respects to Congressman John Lewis as he lies in state at the Capitol pic.twitter.com/dkcOOvHvsY
According to The Hill, the Bidens were accompanied by Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they approached the late civil rights icon's flag-draped coffin. The couple placed their hands over their hearts in a sign of respect to Lewis before Biden stepped forward and touched the casket. According to CNN, Lewis—who died on July 17 at the age of 80 after a battle with cancer—is believed to be the first Black lawmaker to lie in state at the US Capitol Rotunda. "We are made in the image of God, and then there is John Lewis. How could someone in flesh and blood be so courageous, so full of hope and love in the face of so much hate, violence, and vengeance?" Biden said in a statement following the former congressman's death.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife just arrived in the Rotunda to pay his respects to Rep. John Lewis. He was escorted by Speaker Pelosi pic.twitter.com/VD0p45rSDr— Tia Mitchell, AJC’s Washington Correspondent (@ajconwashington) July 27, 2020
Biden, who served with Lewis in Congress during the lawmaker’s 34-year tenure, added that it is "rare to meet and befriend our heroes." Meanwhile, Trump—who had been at odds with Lewis since before his inauguration—took his time before publishing a perfunctory message on the passing of one of his most prominent critics. Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family, he tweeted, after spending hours retweeting a flurry of his older posts focused on disparaging his enemies.
Former VP Joe Biden touches the flag draped on Rep. Lewis’ casket pic.twitter.com/ntLXQm4ElV— Tia Mitchell, AJC’s Washington Correspondent (@ajconwashington) July 27, 2020
According to The New York Times, even as bipartisan tributes to Lewis flooded Twitter in the hours following news of his death, Trump focused on slamming Biden as usual and calling his niece—who published a tell-all memoir titled Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man—a "mess." While he ordered flags at the White House to fly at half-staff in honor of Lewis for part of the day following his death, given their tense history, many wondered how he would comment on the icon's passing.
Trump felt no compassion towards John Lewis, no sympathy for the grief our nation feels at losing one of the best among us. He felt jealousy, that a great man was paid the love and respect that deep down he knows he will never deserve, and will never be shown. @realDonaldTrump— NoelCaslerComedy (@CaslerNoel) July 28, 2020
Of course Donald Trump won’t be paying his respects to John Lewis. Because Donald Trump is a despicable hateful soulless human being.— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) July 28, 2020
Trump lowered the flag for John Lewis for half a day, then raised it... then refused to attend his memorial... A racist president didn’t want to honor a black civil rights icon because he doesn’t respect civil rights, or black people... He is godless, loveless, and worthless...— Cyrus McQueen (@CyrusMMcQueen) July 28, 2020
Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California, even went as far as to urge the president to not comment at all. @realDonaldTrump While the nation mourns the passing of a national hero, please say nothing, she tweeted. Please don't comment on the life of Congressman Lewis. Your press secretary released a statement, leave it at that. Please let us mourn in peace. Lewis never refrained from voicing his dislike of the former TV host and questioned the legitimacy of Trump's win before his inauguration. "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected," he said in a television interview at the time.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says he isn't surprised Pres. Trump won't pay his respects to the late Rep. John Lewis, lying in state at the Capitol.— CNN (@CNN) July 28, 2020
"This President has demonstrated time and time again that he has very low regard for people of color. It's just that simple." pic.twitter.com/pMSeWox0EM
"And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don’t plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I’ve been in the Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right," he added. Meanwhile, Lewis had been supportive of Biden's presidential bid in the months before his death. "It is my belief that we need Joe Biden now more than ever before," Lewis said in a call with reporters in April. "We need his voice. We need his leadership now more than ever before. We need someone who is going to get our country on the right side of history and help save our planet."