Trump meets Martin Luther King Jr's son

Mr Trump met Mr Martin Luther King III amid a row with lawmaker and revered civil rights leader John Lewis.
Mr Trump met Mr Martin Luther King III amid a row with lawmaker and revered civil rights leader John Lewis.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

NEW YORK • US President-elect Donald Trump praised Martin Luther King Jr as a "great man" and met his eldest son on the American holiday honouring the slain civil rights icon, amid a brewing spat with one of Mr King's close collaborators, Mr John Lewis.

The meeting - just days before Mr Trump is sworn into office - appeared to be an effort to reach out to the black community amid his public stand-off with Mr Lewis, a high-profile lawmaker who questioned the legitimacy of the United States presidential election and vowed to boycott the inauguration.

"Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for," Mr Trump tweeted prior to the meeting. "Honour him for being the great man that he was!"

Martin Luther King III deemed his Trump Tower meeting with the President-elect "constructive".

"He said that he is going to represent Americans," Mr King said. "He's said that over and over again. We will continue to evaluate that."

He added: "I believe that's his intent - I believe we have to consistently engage with pressure, public pressure."

In an interview last Friday, Mr Lewis cited what he dubbed Russian interference in the Nov 8 election as his reason to pass on the inauguration for the first time since he joined Congress in 1987.

"I don't see this President-elect as a legitimate president," the Georgia lawmaker told NBC.

On Saturday, Mr Trump hit back at Mr Lewis - a civil rights leader who helped organise the 1963 March on Washington, when the late Mr King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime-infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results," Mr Trump said. "All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"

When asked about the spat, Mr King said that "things get said on both sides in the heat of emotion", but defended Mr Lewis: "Absolutely, I would say John Lewis has demonstrated that he is action."

Mr King said he and the President-elect had touched on voting rights during their meeting, an issue that is known to disproportionately affect minority voters.

"The seminal right of the modern civil rights movement was the right to vote," he said. "My father fought so diligently for it."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Trump meets Martin Luther King Jr's son'. Print Edition | Subscribe