Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia candidly said that much of the hostility directed at U.S. President Barack Obama is racially motivated.
Lewis was a civil rights hero, having worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He has served in elected office for nearly 30 years.
During a Jan. 19 interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, Lewis endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the presidency, adding that, "The election of Hillary Clinton as the first woman would go a long ways in moving us much farther down that road to creating an America, and maybe a world community where we forget about not just race but also gender, and see people as people."
When asked by Harwood about the Republican criticism that President Obama has only intensified the partisan divide across government, Lewis answered that that isn’t true; that it was the GOP who sought to divide the country before the first African American was even swore into office.
“I don't think he made it worse,” Lewis said. “I think there were people [who] because of his election made a conscious decision and said that, ‘We will not give him a victory. We will not let him succeed.’ It was the Republican leadership, on the House side as well as the Senate side.”
The country’s most widely popular conservative radio show host, Rush Limbaugh, shocked listeners in January 2009 when he said that he was rooting for Obama to fail even before he had been sworn in, Thinkprogress reports.
Limbaugh had been asked by a publication to give a 400-word statement describing his “hope for the Obama presidency.”
“So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, ‘Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails,” Limbaugh told listeners. “Somebody’s gotta say it.”
Lewis cited several high-profile cases of GOP lawmakers being disrespectful towards the president while adding that they had a racial tone.
“I think Obama’s been treated differently because of his race,” Lewis said. “I really believe that. You wouldn’t hear, with a white Democrat or white Republican speaking, someone holler out, ‘You lie.’ You wouldn’t have a governor putting her finger in the face of a white president like the governor of Arizona did [to Obama].”
Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina broke congressional decorum in September 2009 when he shouted “you lie” at Obama during the president during his speech to Congress, CNN reports.
The other incident was in January 2012, when photographers caught an exchange between the president and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on a tarmac. The governor was brandishing her finger in the president's face, according to CBS.
“There have been visible signs of disrespect for the man,” concluded Lewis. “And I’ve always said if you don’t respect the man, respect the position.”