’A simple thank you would suffice’: Maine Gov. LePage says John Lewis owes Abe Lincoln

’A simple thank you would suffice’: Maine Gov. LePage says John Lewis owes Abe Lincoln
In case you thought the war of words between President-elect Donald Trump and civil rights icon Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia) might die down ahead of the inauguration, outspoken and controversial Governor Paul LePage (R-Maine) has ensured that the debate rages on.

The Trump-Lewis spat broke out over the weekend, after Lewis said Friday on NBC News' ‘Meet the Press’ that Russia interfered in the US election campaign and therefore Trump was not a “legitimate president.” He also added that, for the first time in his political career, he will not be attending the inauguration.

Trump then took to Twitter to attack the Georgia congressman as “all talk, talk, talk - no action or results,” and telling Lewis to spend more time “fixing and helping” his upscale Atlanta-area district, “which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested).”

Since then, nearly 60 other Democratic politicians, mainly in the House of Representatives, have said they will join Lewis in boycotting the inauguration, the Washington Post reported. While many of Trump’s opponents have said that not attending is an appropriate way to express displeasure with Trump, his election and his proposed policies, LePage took the debate a step further than most.

LePage said Lewis, who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and has been arrested more than 40 times, needed a history lesson.

‘‘We’re sick of the silver-tongued people. How about John Lewis last week? Criticizing the president?’’ LePage told WVOM-FM on Tuesday. ‘‘You know, I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history. It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.’’

LePage’s remarks served as a catalyst for historians and tweeters alike who lambasted LePage, noting it was Grant (1869-1877) who ended the Reconstruction period, which lasted from 1865 to 1877, allowing for the creation of Jim Crow laws, which Hayes (1877-1881) oversaw. Indeed, the Civil Rights Movement fought against Jim Crow laws, which were repealed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

‘‘Paul LePage is going to give John Lewis a tutorial on the history of black oppression in the United States? That’s rich,’’ Colby College history professor Dan Shea told AP.

The Maine governor tried to clarify his comments later in the day, but only made things worse by attacking the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the country.

“The blacks, the NAACP ]paint] all white people with one brush,” LePage told the Portland Press Herald. “To say that every white American is a racist is an insult. The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the north for fighting their battle.”

Lewis’ office said that LePage’s remarks didn’t warrant a response.

“I don’t think he feels the need to defend himself against spurious comments,” Lewis’ communications director, Brenda Jones, told the Press Herald. “People who know America’s history know what the facts are. It sounds to me like [LePage] is just trying to be mean-spirited. The facts of history refute that statement.”

LePage gained notoriety last January, when he said that “drug dealers” and “black people” were impregnating “young, white girls” and “our white women” in Maine. He also threatened to bring back the guillotine for drug dealers in the Pine Tree State, which abolished the death penalty in 1887. A day later, LePage told residents to “load up and get rid of the drug dealers. Because, folks, they’re killing our kids.”

At the end of August, he called an opponent a “socialist c***sucker.”