President-elect Donald met with the oldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. in recognition of the civil rights leader’s birthday Monday, in an attempt to honor the icon and overcome remaining divisions between his administration and the black community.
With his inauguration just three days away, Mr. Trump remains widely unpopular among black communities, garnering only 8 percent of the black vote in the election. He has accused minority communities of engaging in voter fraud and decried their neighborhoods as war zones, asking them, “What do you have to lose?” by voting for him. Many have criticized his candidacy for gaining support from hate groups such as the KKK, and have spoken out against his nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, citing Sessions's controversial history and alleged use of racial slurs.
But on Monday, Trump sat down with Martin Luther King Jr. III at Trump Tower to discuss voting rights issues at a meeting meant to bridge the divide between the incoming administration and minority community.
"He said that he is going to represent all Americans. He said that over and over again," Mr. King told reporters after the hour-long meeting, which he also called “constructive.”
"I believe that's his intent," he added.
The meeting followed a weekend of tension between Trump and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia, which began after Mr. Lewis said he doesn’t consider Trump a “legitimate president,” leading the president-elect to fire back via social media, criticizing Lewis as “all talk” and “no action.” Many members of Congress stepped forward to defend Lewis’s record, calling Trump’s comments inappropriate and out of line.
"Donald Trump hasn't put his life on the line for anyone except Donald Trump," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts told reporters after a memorial breakfast for Martin Luther King Jr. Monday. "John Lewis has earned the right to raise questions about legitimacy."
The feud created another rift between Trump and the black community just days before he’s slated to take over the nation’s highest office. When asked about Trump’s comments, King reiterated the importance of healing divides.
"First of all I think that in the heat of emotion a lot of things get said on both sides. I think at some point I bridge-build. The goal is to bring America together," King said.
After attacking Lewis on Twitter over the weekend, the president-elect posted another tweet Monday honoring the senior King.
"Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was!" he wrote.
But not everyone is ready to put the incident in the past. Lewis says he does not plan to attend Trump’s inauguration, and others who joined together Monday noted the perceived threats his administration could pose.
"Don't be afraid of who sits in the White House,” Bernice King, the civil rights icon’s youngest daughter, said during a church service honoring him in Atlanta Monday. "God can triumph over Trump."
This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.