“I guess we should have expected that the left including President Obama would take that occasion for a political moment. They’ll grab at any opportunity,” King said on Fox News on July 31. “I’ve chosen not to politicize the death of Congressman Lewis, but to remember him as a peaceful nonviolent warrior and encourage everyone to resolve our conflicts peacefully.”
In a 40-minute eulogy for Lewis, Obama brought up a long list of political topics, including the contentious issues of mail-in voting ballots and the wave on unrest following the police-custody death of George Floyd. Although the former president did not name any names, parts of the speech were obvious critiques of the Trump administration and Republicans in general.
“But even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting—by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick,” Obama said to a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Now, I know this is a celebration of John’s life. There are some who might say we shouldn’t dwell on such things,” the former president added. “But that’s why I’m talking about it. John Lewis devoted his time on this Earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and what’s best in America that we are seeing circulate right now.”
Obama spoke at the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor.
“I guess they grab that an opportunity to be political,” King, a Fox News contributor, said.
King specifically took issue with Obama’s equivocation of the riots, which followed the death of George Floyd, to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Lewis led the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery when he was 25 and was among a large number of peaceful protesters who were beaten by state troopers.
“President Obama, with wordplay, took us back to the 1960s and that was a time when segregation was still on the books, segregation was still legal, and those in power were trying to enforce that and keep that,” King said. “Today when the National Guard goes sent by the President, for example, or the state troopers, they are trying to protect the people of America in every community and to save lives and protect people. That is a totally distinct difference.”