AP Wrongly Claims There Was No Boycott of Bush 43 Inauguration

January 17th, 2017 11:29 AM

On January 13, Kevin Freking at the Associated Press reported that Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) would be "joining several other Democrats who have decided to boycott" the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. It further reported that Lewis "said it will be the first inauguration he has missed in three decades as Democrats and Republicans took the oath of office."

The fact is that John Lewis boycotted the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001 in very outspoken fashion. The AP has yet to correct the record — and the fact that it did not directly quote Lewis does not absolve them of that obligation. Additionally, the AP also reported Tuesday morning that no other congressman failed to attend Bush 43's inauguration. Contemporaneous post-inauguration news reports indicate that others besides Lewis were also absent.

The wire service's unbylined Tuesday morning dispatch (since updated; saved here as it appeared at 9:54 a.m.) gives readers the clear impression that no congressman failed to attend Bush 43's first inauguration as it repeated Lewis's lie about where he was in 2001 (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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Growing list of Democrats boycotting Trump inauguration

More than 30 House Democrats plan to boycott President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, casting the Republican businessman as a threat to democracy.

Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jerrold Nadler of New York and Don Beyer of Virginia on Monday joined a growing list of lawmakers who will not attend Trump's swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol. The number who initially said they would skip the event has increased after Trump lashed out at Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., on Saturday for challenging his legitimacy to be the next president.

"This president 'semi-elect' does not deserve to be president of the United States," Cohen said in a statement. "He has not exhibited the characteristics or the values that we hold dear. That Dr. (Martin Luther) King held dear. That John Lewis holds dear. And when he questioned the integrity of my friend, colleague and civil rights icon John Lewis, that crossed the Rubicon."

... While many Democrats were furious with the outcome of the drawn out 2000 election in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore after recounts and a Supreme Court ruling, they attended Bush's inauguration as the nation's 43rd president.

... Lewis said last week that he would not attend Trump's swearing-in, marking the first time he had skipped an inauguration since joining Congress three decades ago.

The first bolded paragraph above clearly tells readers that everyone "attended Bush's inauguration" in 2001.

No "they" did not. Yesterday, Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller cited a January 21, 2001 Washington Post story which reported the following specific evidence that more than one Democrat failed to attend:

Rep. Martin Frost is explaining what it's like to be a Democratic leader on Inauguration Day. He understands that some of his colleagues would rather eat a live armadillo than watch George W. Bush be sworn in as the 43rd president.

... "Texans view this differently," he says. "But I can understand why some [Democratic] members wouldn't want to come to this. It's not a good time when the other party is having all the fun."

Some members of the Black Caucus decided to boycott Inauguration Day; John Lewis, for instance, spent the day in his Atlanta district. He thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush’s swearing-in because he doesn’t believe Bush is the true elected president."

The second bolded paragraph in the AP excerpt above repeats Lewis's lie that this will be his first inauguration absence as a member of Congress.

The AP's Tuesday morning failure to cite Lewis's 2001 boycott is especially galling because dozens of center-right outlets cited it yesterday. Three of the more prominent examples are at National Review, the Daily Caller, and Gateway Pundit, which in turn referred to Fox News's mention of Lewis's 2001 absence. The wire service's failure to cite the obvious absence of others adds insult to injury.

It hardly seems likely that Lewis, despite his advanced age (he will be 77 in February) could somehow have forgotten his boycott 16 years ago, because it was based on his reactions to the most intense and prolonged presidential election controversy in modern times.

On December 2, 2000, in the midst of the legal controversy over the Florida presidential balloting recount, the New York Times published an op-ed from Lewis entitled "Now We Know That Not All Votes Count."

The op-ed was a bitter reaction to developments at the time indicating that that the U.S. Supreme Court was not going to permit the chaos involved in a comprehensive statewide Sunshine State recount and endless arguments over hanging chads, the eligibility of absentee military ballots, and other matters. Lewis insisted:

There can be no legitimacy in an election absent the principle of one person, one vote.In an election this close, every vote must count, and every vote must be counted.

In other words, Lewis had already made up his mind, roughly 50 days before Inauguration Day, that anything short of a full recount would in his mind render George W. Bush's electoral victory in Florida illegitimate.

On December 24, 2000, 12 days after the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore ruling which "overturn(ed) the Florida Supreme Court ruling that called for manual recounts," in an opinion piece at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dan Schnur observed:

Even while (defeated Democratic presidential candidate Al) Gore urged comity, Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia talked about the potential for civil unrest.

As anyone could have predicted, Lewis was unmoved by Bush 43's first inaugural speech, as the Wall Street Journal, also demonstrating that the Georgia congressman was not the event's only absence, reported the next day:

While the speech was well received, some aspects helped dramatize the divisions Mr. Bush sought to mend.

The biggest applause line in the speech was Mr. Bush's call for tax cuts, not unity. Mr. Bush didn't speak directly to African-Americans specifically or those who didn't vote for him generally, a decision that left some feeling ignored. "It wasn't enough," said Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), a former civil-rights activist who was among those who boycotted the ceremony.

The only remaining questions are how Lewis thought he could get away with his "It will be the first one I miss" lie, and how the AP could think that it would get away with relaying Lewis's lie without challenge while piling its own lie about no one else boycotting Bush 43's inauguration in 2001.

Apparently, we're to the point where a sitting congressman and the nation's primary establishment press gatekeeper don't even care if they get caught.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.