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« Recap: BMI honors Marvin Sapp, celebrates best in gospel music | Main | Remembering a legacy: Top 10 Martin Luther King Jr. quotes »
Tuesday
Jan172017

Martin Luther King III calls meeting with Donald Trump 'constructive' following John Lewis controversy

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

By JONATHAN LEMIRE // Associated Press

Share NEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump spoke of national unity to a son of Martin Luther King Jr., seeking to ease friction over the president-elect's squabble with Rep. John Lewis, a protege of the slain civil rights leader.

"He said that he is going to represent all Americans. He said that over and over again," Martin Luther King III told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower Monday after a nearly hour-long meeting. "I believe that's his intent."

Trump met with King's son on the holiday marking the life of the assassinated civil rights icon, just days after the president-elect had gone on Twitter to strike back fiercely at Lewis for questioning the legitimacy of the billionaire businessman's election as president. Lewis and the elder King were among the Big Six civil rights leaders of the 1960s.

In a post on his Twitter account, Trump had accused Lewis of being "all talk" after the Georgia Democrat said he didn't think Trump had come to the presidency legitimately. Trump also tweeted that the Southern congressman should pay more attention to his "crime ridden" Atlanta-area district.

Trump's comments drew widespread criticism, and have done little to reassure those uneasy about the transition from the Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, to a president-in-waiting who struggled to connect with many nonwhite voters during the campaign.

The younger King downplayed the incident Monday, saying that "in the heat of emotion a lot of things get said on both sides." King, who said he pressed Trump on the need for voting reform to increase participation, called their meeting "constructive." King said that while he disagreed with the president-elect's comments where Lewis is concerned, he believes "at some point in this nation, we've got to move forward."

"I think we also have to consistently engage with pressure, public pressure," King said. "It doesn't happen automatically."

Trump, who struggled for support from minority voters on Election Day, briefly joined King in the lobby of Trump Tower but ignored reporters' shouted questions about his comments on Lewis.

The congressman said late last week he didn't consider Trump a "legitimate president," blaming Russian interference in the election. Lewis said he would boycott Friday's inauguration. More than two dozen Democratic members of Congress have said they will sit out the Trump swearing-in ceremony. Among them is Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, who said Monday "this president 'semi-elect' does not deserve to be president of the United States. He has not exhibited the characteristics or the values that we hold dear."

The Martin Luther King holiday is meant to honor community service and volunteerism, and many Americans, including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spend part of the day undertaking a service project in their community. Trump, who canceled a planned trip to Washington, spent the day inside the Manhattan skyscraper that bears his name.

RELATED: Top 10 MLK quotes

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