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John Lewis Backtracks On Comments About Bernie Sanders, Addresses Questions Regarding Past Encounters With Hillary Clinton

Amid backlash regarding comments made during the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, Representative John Lewis has walked back his public critique of Bernie Sanders. In a statement, via the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, Lewis denied that he had any intent to question or impugn Sanders’ credibility or previous work in the movement during his interaction with the press on Thursday. MSNBC posted excerpts from the statement that Lewis issued on Saturday.

“The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

As previously reported by Inquisitr, John Lewis said, “I never saw him, I never met him,” when asked of Bernie Sanders’ work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the early-to-mid 1960s. Lewis also implied that he met both former President Bill Clinton and current Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during those times, an assertion that he further clarified in the above-noted statement.

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Civil rights leader and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) recently impugned Bernie Sanders’ history of activism because he “didn’t see him” during the crucial years of the civil rights movement. (Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

“If you take a look at a transcript of my [Thursday] statement, you will find I did not say that I met Hillary and Bill Clinton when I was chairman of SNCC in the 1960s,” Lewis explained. “My point was that when I was doing the work of civil rights, led the Voter Education Project and organized voter registration in the South in the 1970s, I did cross paths with Hillary and Bill Clinton in the field.”

As noted by The Guardian, John Lewis is a highly-respected advocate and activist who played an integral role of the American Civil Rights Movement. He was part of the celebrated Freedom Riders and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis was also present on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, where he was beaten by police. Widely regarded as one of the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives by voters in his home state of Georgia in 1981.

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Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton used to have something of a friendly relationship but that slowly eroded once Sanders’ poll numbers started climbing. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A number of outlets were quick to offer documentation of Sanders’ civil rights activism following the remarks of Lewis and others on Thursday. U.S. Uncut and Mother Jones posted primary documents referencing Sanders’ work in organizations like CORE and SNCC. The organization Veterans for Bernie published a number of pictures by photographer Danny Lyons that purportedly show a young Bernie Sanders at events and protests.

One member of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC publicly objected to apparent mischaracterizations of Bernie Sanders by Lewis and others. Representative Keith Ellison – who supported an endorsement of Sanders over Clinton – told CNN that he had little doubt of Sanders’ civil rights work.

“[John Lewis] didn’t see Bernie Sanders because Bernie Sanders was doing fair and open housing in Chicago – that’s why he didn’t see him. No matter how good your eyesight is – if you are standing in Alabama, you can’t see people in Chicago,” Ellison told CNN. “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t absolutely there, fighting for justice, fighting for open housing.”

Despite the intrigue surrounding high-profile endorsements, Sanders faces an uphill battle against Hillary Clinton, who is presently the Democratic Party’s national frontrunner. Aggregate polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Clinton with a commanding lead heading into the South Carolina primary, where she leads Bernie Sanders, 63 percent to 30.7 percent.

[Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images]

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