PORTLAND, Maine – Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader who says he doesn't see Donald Trump as a "legitimate president," should be grateful for all that Republican presidents have done for black people, GOP Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday.
LePage, who's white, said on WVOM-FM that the black Democratic Georgia congressman needs a history lesson on how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and how Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes fought against Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation.
"A simple thank you would suffice," LePage said.
Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and pushed for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. But historians say LePage is wrong about Jim Crow laws.
Jim Crow laws didn't exist during the Grant administration and an electoral deal that put Hayes in office led to the end of Reconstruction and the removal of federal troops, setting the stage for the creation of Jim Crow laws that followed, said Colby professor Dan Shea.
"Paul LePage is going to give John Lewis a tutorial on the history of black oppression in the United States? That's rich," Shea said.
Lewis, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement who suffered a fractured skull while leading the march in Selma, Alabama, said last week that he would not attend Trump's inauguration.
"You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that aired Sunday.
LePage on Tuesday also had harsh words for a Maine congresswoman who is among more than 40 House Democrats so far to say they are skipping Trump's inauguration. He said Rep. Chellie Pingree should resign if she doesn't attend.
"They're trying to bully us out of believing our Constitution," LePage said of Democrats.
Pingree said Monday that "President-elect Trump's actions go beyond any kind of reasonable debate_they threaten the constitutional values our country is based on."
Her office didn't immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.