U.S. Representative John lewis died on Friday, months after announcing he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Lewis was a remarkable man, whose long career in politics was built on his work as a Civil Rights leader. At only 18-years-old, he met Martin Luther King Jr. and became one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961. In 1987, he was elected to represent Georgia’s 5th congressional district.
Lewis had been around long enough for everyone to have taken a photo with him, including the many Republicans who stood against almost everything Lewis fought so long and hard for. It was also long enough that those Republicans should be able to tell the difference between Lewis and another congressman, Representative Elijah E. Cummings. Cummings passed away in October.
Not one, but TWO, U.S. senators posted a tribute to John Lewis on Saturday using a photo of Cummings.
“t was an honor to know & be blessed with the opportunity to serve in Congress with John Lewis a genuine & historic American hero,” wrote Marco Rubio in a tweet on Saturday. “May the Lord grant him eternal peace.”
Those words were accompanied by a picture of Rubio talking to Elijah Cummings, who we at least hope he knew he was talking to at the time.
Wrong black guy pic.twitter.com/qYnWSuw177— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) July 18, 2020
Senator Dan Sullivan also memorialized Lewis with a picture of himself with Elijah Cummings on Facebook, writing, “Congressman Lewis’ courage and principled leadership helped guide America through one of the most challenging periods in its history, calling our country to live up to its ideals with justice and equality for all people regardless of color and creed.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan joins Sen. Marco Rubio in posting a picture of the late Elijah Cummings in their tribute to civil rights icon John Lewis. pic.twitter.com/EdrUWmKIw7— Travis Akers (@travisakers) July 18, 2020
Both of them have since deleted their mistakes, The New York Times reports. A spokesman for Sullivan told the NYT, “Senator Sullivan’s staff made a mistake trying to honor an American legend,” in an email on Saturday.
Rubio referred to the error in a second tweet with an actual picture of himself with Lewis. He even added a date and place this time for the fact-checkers:
Earlier today I tweeted an incorrect photo— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 18, 2020
John Lewis was a genuine American hero
I was honored to appear together in Miami 3 years ago at an event captured in video below
My God grant him eternal resthttps://t.co/aEm4MxKxBP pic.twitter.com/0UpWSG3vNQ
A spokesperson for Rubio explained the mix-up by saying the photo was mislabeled because it had been captioned as “Elijah Cummings” when originally published on the Philadelphia Inquirer photojournalist Lauren Schneiderman’s personal website in 2014. All that really proves is that people have been racist and confusing the two Black men in Congress for years, which was something Lewis and Cummings were both fully aware of. The same thing happened around the death of Cummings last year, and Lewis referred to it in a memorial speech for his friend.
“Sometimes people would confuse us, and say, ‘Hello, Elijah,’ ‘Hello, John Lewis,’ to him,” he said. “And we would joke about it. We would laugh about it.”
The Internet was mostly laughing at Rubio, and posting pictures of “him.”
Spent the evening reminiscing over old pictures of me and Marco Rubio. Those were the days. pic.twitter.com/akTH0ptnob— Natalia Antonova 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@NataliaAntonova) July 19, 2020
Marco Rubio is having a day. pic.twitter.com/hcexy8Ejtd— Josh Gad (@joshgad) July 19, 2020
Senators Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan, pictured below, apparently cannot distinguish one Black congressman (Elijah Cummings) from another (John Lewis). 😤 pic.twitter.com/jGbcZJFbk6— TruthtoPower (@MarkHickman20) July 19, 2020
Which one is Ted Cruz and which is Marco Rubio? Assholes all look the same to me. pic.twitter.com/EFM8VdkePy— Bleeding Heart Liberal Marine (@zaharako) July 19, 2020
I remember the last time I met Marco Rubio. I didn’t get too close because he wasn’t wearing a mask and he smelled. pic.twitter.com/RxcZYQNzFs— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) July 19, 2020
Let’s just remember Lewis as he deserves: as a man a million times better and more important than any Republican Senator.