Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights-era icon , invoked segregationist Gov. George Wallace of Alabama in accusing John McCain and Sarah Palin of fanning the flames of hatred at Republican campaign events.
"What I am seeing reminds me of too much of another destructive period in American history," Lewis said in a statement released to FOX News. "Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."
"George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights," Lewis added. "Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."
He then accused McCain and Palin of "playing with fire" in a way that "disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy."
McCain immediately responded, calling on Obama to denounce Lewis' statement.
"Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale," McCain said in a written statement. "The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign."
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