President-elect Donald Trump has blasted U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s 5th Congressional District as being in “horrible shape,” “falling apart” and “crime-infested.” The district includes parts of Buckhead and Brookhaven, with Lewis’s name appearing on a new school in the latter city.
Trump, a Republican, made the comments in two tweets on Jan. 14 as part of a political argument with Lewis, a Democrat. In part of an NBC News interview released Jan. 13, Lewis had blasted Trump as not a “legitimate president” due to alleged Russian government tampering in the election.
In the two tweets, Trump’s full comment stated:
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk–no action or results. Sad!”
The 5th Congressional District covers most of the city of Atlanta while also extending south into Clayton County and east into the Druid Hills area.
Parts of the district have significant crime rates, and Atlanta is tackling a range of infrastructure issues with a series of bond-funded projects. However, the district also includes such booming areas and institutions as Atlanta’s Downtown and Midtown; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Emory University; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Buckhead is among the wealthiest neighborhoods in the entire South. Among the district’s many museums is the recently opened National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which has a fellowship named for Lewis in recognition of his role in the Civil Rights movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, was among those returning fire on Trump via Twitter. In tweets that his spokesperson, Anne Torres, cited as his official response, Reed started by posting a photo of Lewis being beaten during the historic 1965 “Bloody Sunday” Civil Rights march in Selma, Ala., with the comment that Lewis “is an American hero & a national treasure. Period. Full stop.”
Reed then continued, “That PEOTUS [President-elect of the United States] Trump would attack Congressman Lewis on MLK Day weekend for ‘all talk…no action’ when he bled to actually ‘Make America Great’ is why far less than half the country supports him at the dawn of his presidency.” Reed added the Twitter hashtags “#HeStoodUpForUs” and “LetsStandForHim.”
Melissa Mullinax, a senior advisor to Reed, commented about Trump on her personal Twitter account. “This thin-skinned disgrace of a Pres attacks a hero and ATL based on ZERO knowledge,” she tweeted. “Trump’s description of Atlanta is beyond ridiculous.”
Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, a Democrat, sent Trump a letter, also made public, inviting the president-elect to visit the area.
“Please don’t judge from afar,” Eaves wrote. “I encourage you to come walk our streets. I welcome you to meet with those who go to work every day and are determined to beat the odds. I respectfully ask that you talk with local leaders and begin a positive dialogue.”
“The Buckhead Coalition does not get involved in partisan politics, but must admit we’re very proud of the progress and prosperity of the 28 square miles of Buckhead in the 5th Congressional District,” said former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, a Democrat who is now president of the Buckhead Coalition, an invitation-only group of 100 business and community leaders.
“The most unpresidential president-elect in history,” tweeted state Rep. Scott Holcomb, a Democrat whose District 81 includes part of Brookhaven.
Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent, whose District 42 covers portions of Brookhaven and Buckhead, tweeted that “Booming Atlanta has been proud to have [Lewis] represent us for decades.”
Lewis’s district includes part of Brookhaven’s Buford Highway corridor, one of the most diverse immigrant communities in the country. In response to Trump’s comments, Marian Liou of the local organizing group We Love BuHi noted state and city efforts to aid Buford Highway’s infrastructure, housing costs and police-community relations, and praised Lewis’s leadership.
“I think reality has outgrown perception when it comes to the Buford Highway area, but I think everyone would agree there is always more work to do, particularly at the local level,” Liou said, adding that, “As Congressman John Lewis has always said, we must be pilot lights that don’t go out, not firecrackers. I’m thankful for our public servants who are willing to do the hard work and who are committed to the long game.”