Congressional Black Caucus Chair to Trump: Don't Comment on John Lewis' Death

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus told President Donald Trump to "say nothing" about the death of Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and instead to "let us mourn in peace."

California Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is chair of the 55-member, all-Black coalition in Congress, rebuffed critics who are calling for Trump to make an official statement about Lewis, who died Friday in Atlanta.

The president later responded to Lewis' death Saturday afternoon, tweeting: "Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family."

Lawmakers, celebrities and journalists had earlier criticized Trump for tweeting dozens of times about "corrupt Joe Biden" and a slew of other topics, but failing to mention Lewis' name once in the hours after the Democratic congressman's passing. But even as reports emerged Saturday that Trump was golfing with Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Bass urged the president not to issue any statement about Lewis at all.

.@realDonaldTrump while the nation mourns the passing of a national hero, please say nothing. Please don’t comment on the life of Congressman Lewis. Your press secretary released a statement, leave it at that.

Please let us mourn in peace.

— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) July 18, 2020

"[Donald Trump]: while the nation mourns the passing of a national hero, please say nothing. Please don't comment on the life of Congressman Lewis. Your press secretary released a statement, leave it at that. Please let us mourn in peace," Bass tweeted Saturday morning.

Bass appeared on CBS This Morning Saturday and highlighted Lewis for helping to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and for championing the Voter Empowerment Act,which modernized voter registration and ballot access.

Despite urging Trump not to tweet or make any formal statement about Lewis' death, she urged Black Americans and others to "get in good trouble, continue to speak out and speak up" about racial injustice.

The Congressional Black Caucus, of which Lewis was a member, applauded the late Georgia congressman for "pressing the Trump administration to quickly deliver the stimulus checks that Congress provided in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic" in a Saturday statement.

Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by then-President Barack Obama.

Trump personally ordered all U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff at public buildings and grounds, military posts and naval stations across the country for the remainder of the day. The White House lowered the flag earlier Saturday alongside all other government buildings in Washington D.C.

The president rarely mentioned Lewis in life aside from a few criticisms about him skipping the January 2017 presidential inauguration and for presiding over "the crime-infested inner-cities of the U.S."

Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2017

Newsweek reached out to both Bass' office and the White House for any additional remarks Saturday afternoon.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued her own remarks about Lewis' death Saturday on Twitter: "Rep. John Lewis was an icon of the civil rights movement, and he leaves an enduring legacy that will never be forgotten. We hold his family in our prayers, as we remember Rep. John Lewis' incredible contributions to our country."

Trump's opponent in the upcoming presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden, paid tribute to Lewis in several social media posts.

"We are made in the image of God, and then there is John Lewis. He was truly one-of-a-kind, a moral compass who always knew where to point us and which direction to march. To John's family, friends, staff, and constituents, Jill and I send you our love and prayers," Biden wrote.

Updated 2:13 PM ET, to include President Trump's remembrance tweet of Lewis.

John Lewis
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Congressman John Lewis attends the Prayer Breakfast at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on September 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage/Getty