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If Trump Goes, John Lewis Will Skip Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Opening

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday that it was “unfortunate” that Mr. Lewis and Mr. Thompson would not “join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”

“The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds,” she said.

Photo

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, with Representative Peter King of New York.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The announcement on Monday that Mr. Trump planned to attend the opening of the museum quickly drew controversy. Jacqueline Amos, the chairwoman of the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee, called it “a slap in the face.”

The N.A.A.C.P. also criticized the president’s proposed attendance at the opening. Derrick Johnson, the organization’s president, said in a statement that Mr. Trump’s record on “the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement.”

“He has created a commission to reinforce voter suppression, refused to denounce white supremacists, and overall, has created a racially hostile climate in this nation,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Lewis, who voted on Wednesday in favor of a failed attempt to begin impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, has clashed with the president several times since he won the election.

Days before the inauguration in January, Mr. Lewis said in an interview on “Meet the Press” that he did not view Mr. Trump to be a “legitimate president” and believed “the Russians participated in helping this man get elected.”

He said he planned to boycott the inauguration for the first time in three decades, which he did.

Mr. Trump lashed out at the congressman the next day on Twitter, saying his congressional district, which includes three-quarters of Atlanta, was “in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested).” He also said the civil rights icon was “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is the only state-sponsored civil rights museum in the country. Its exhibits document the history of the civil rights struggle, and the violent white supremacist reaction to it, from 1945 until 1976.

Its displays include a charred cross burned by the Ku Klux Klan, a list of the places and dates of Mississippi lynchings, and the rifle used to murder the civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Correction: December 7, 2017

An earlier version of this article included a quotation attributed to Representative Lewis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the newspaper subsequently corrected. He called Mr. Trump a “head man,” not a “hit man,” The Journal-Constitution said.

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