The United States lost a hero on Friday when John Lewis, US House of Representatives member from Georgia, died. His office announced in December that the Representative had Stage IV pancreatic cancer, and despite a false report earlier in the month that he had died, it was confirmed Friday that the civil rights stalwart had died at age 80.
Lewis was an instrumental member of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and his beating at the hands of a state trooper in Selma in 1965 was one of the shocking images that helped push through support for the Civil Rights Act. He was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and his long list of accomplishments has made him one of the most celebrated congressmen of the modern era.
His death, along with news of fellow civil rights leader C.T. Vivian’s passing on Friday as well, drew an outpouring of grief and tributes for Lewis and Vivian from across the political spectrum and the world at large. But one tribute was a complete disaster, and it came from Florida’s Marco Rubio. The state senator from Florida was one of two Republican lawmakers who tweeted a “tribute” to John Lewis that actually included an image of another Black lawmaker, former Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings, who died in 2019.
that's Elijah Cummings and not John Lewis and he made it his avatar. pic.twitter.com/95N0Ir6d7v
— Kate Nocera (@KateNocera) July 18, 2020
Those particularly of Rubio made the implication of Rubio’s apparent confusion very clear.
The tweet and the blatant error got a lot of reaction on Twitter.
"I want to shoutout one of the greatest rappers of all time. From his time with N.W.A. to his solo career. Even his acting career. Ice Cube. Thank you for all youve done as a celebrity and a citizen" – Marco Rubio pic.twitter.com/Yk9XpcvEdy
— Roy Bellamy (@roybelly) July 18, 2020
— Ethan J. Skolnick of @5ReasonsSports (@EthanJSkolnick) July 18, 2020
It was an honor to know Marco Rubio pic.twitter.com/K5mxOk9XM0
— Jake Maccoby (@jdmaccoby) July 18, 2020
The other lawmaker who made the same gaffe, Dan Sullivan, was also criticized for posting a picture of Cummings. But Rubio certainly took the brunt of the criticism, especially because the photo he shared was of him standing next to Cummings. If there is a defense of Rubio to be had, apparently the photographer who took the image also got the lawmaker’s name wrong.
the photographer who took it fucked it up too! found this with a reverse image search – look at the caption pic.twitter.com/zg2WT65re9
— Henry Druschel (@henrydruschel) July 18, 2020
Still, it was an embarrassing tribute that even Rubio’s “apology” did little to correct.