Donald Trump accuses civil rights leader John Lewis of lying about inauguration

This combo of file images shows US President-elect Donald Trump (right) on Nov 19, 2016 in Bedminster, New Jersey and US Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, in Washington, DC on Feb 27, 2013.
This combo of file images shows US President-elect Donald Trump (right) on Nov 19, 2016 in Bedminster, New Jersey and US Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, in Washington, DC on Feb 27, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President-elect Donald Trump extended his war of words with African-American civil rights leader John Lewis on Tuesday (Jan 17), accusing the Democratic congressman of lying when he said Trump's inauguration would be the first that he would miss.

"John Lewis said about my inauguration, 'It will be the first one that I've missed.' WRONG (or lie)! He boycotted Bush 43 also because he 'thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush's swearing-in....he doesn't believe Bush is the true elected president.' Sound familiar!" Trump said in a pair of posts on Twitter.

The Republican president-elect initially clashed with Lewis on Twitter over the weekend after the congressman from Georgia questioned the legitimacy of his Nov 8 election victory, because of US intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia meddled in the campaign.

Lewis also said he would not attend Trump's swearing-in this Friday (Jan 20)and that "It will be the first one that I miss since I've been in the Congress." Lewis' remarks, in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press,were released last Friday at the beginning of the long holiday weekend that honours slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump responded on Saturday by tweeting that Lewis had falsely complained about the election results and instead"should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)."

"All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!" Trump wrote on Saturday.

On Tuesday, Trump continued the battle, saying Lewis lied and quoting an article in The Washington Post in 2001 that said Lewis spent that Inauguration Day in his Atlanta district rather than see Republican President George W. Bush sworn in.

Bush was declared the winner of the 2000 election after the Supreme Court halted a protracted recount of a very close election in Florida between him and Democratic candidate Al Gore.

Trump's attacks on Lewis offended many Americans including some of Trump's fellow Republicans. Trump drew just 8 per cent of the black vote in the November election.

The 76-year-old Lewis, who has been a civil rights leader for more than half a century, was beaten by police during a march he helped lead in 1965 in Selma, Alabama, drawing attention to hurdles for blacks to vote. He protested alongside King that day and on other occasions.

Lewis' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.