tv The Axe Files with David Axelrod John Lewis CNN July 14, 2017 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
have sobered him up. this is not an easy role for anyone. and, he is witnessed his father struggle. to, to, get some traction and in washington. so, my idea now is that -- 10, 20, 30 years from now. he will be donald trump businessman. he will have an office in trump tower. and he will have preserved the family legacy. >> the family legacy is still being written. now more than ever in business and politics, it seems the first son, donald trump jr. may be getting a much bigger chapter. i'm randi kaye, thank you for watching. tonight on the "axe files." a special conversation with civil rights icon, john lewis. >> to believe in something stand up for it speak up and speak out. >> from his march with dr. king to the historic campaign with robert kennedy.
>> the assassin bullet changed course of history. >> john lewis reflects on service and his message to donald trump. >> this president should be leading us into the future. not taking us backward. >> announcer: welcome to "the axe files." >> congressman john lewis, so good to be with you. especially here at center for, civil and human rights in atlanta that museum of history so much of which you were in the middle of. we look over here. here is a mural of, photo of the march from selma to montgomery. a few days after you and others were savagely beaten and gassed. stomped on by horses. trying to cross the bridge in selma. tell me how you feel we are doing today? how far down the road have we gotten from that bridge and are we still moving forward?
david, i am honored to be in your presence here with you. i must tell you we have come a distance. we have made progress. but there are forces in america trying to slow us down. or take us back. when i think aut what happened here in the americansouth. not just in selma across the south. in mississippi. in georgia. in tennessee. what people had to go through. to pass a so-called literacy test. people were asked, the number of jellybeans in a jar. there were african-american lawyers, and doctors. college professors. high school principals. housewives and farmers. were told over and over again. that they failed the so-called literacy test so. we had to do what we did.
in termtz of where we are today, you have -- you have been pretty harsh in your criticism of the president of the united states. you at times compared him to george wallace. who was the governor who presided over, over those state troopers who attacked you. on the edmond pettis bridge. pretty tough criticism. >> well, you know -- i think that -- the person we have in washington, today, is uncaring. know very, very little about the struggle and the history of the civil rights movement. black and white people died, gave their lives. i think about andy goodman. james shany. i think about a whi housewife who came from detroit who was, shot, murdered, on the highway between selma and montgomery.
by the klan. and countless individuals just gave everything they had. george wallace. what about the president and his actions suggest to you that he is in that tradition, tradition of a fame notorious, segregationist. >> well i think, this president, right now, is, asking, for the records. the voter registration records. of people all over america. that is a foufrm intimidation. a form of harassment. >> voter. integrity commission. vice president. >> some of the people that make up this commission. they have a history. a long history. difficult for paem to par t-- p
participate in the process. we have come too far. this president should be leading us into the future. not taking us backward. >> despite the fact that he got the requisite number of electoral volts. he often uses the word rigged. you think the election was rigged in his favor. >> i would, truly believe to this day the election was rigged in his favor. >> you know, you had a march. every year you kmem rate the march on the bridge in selma. led to the passage of the voting rights act. a couple years ago on the 50th anniversary. one of the marchers was jeff sessions now attorney general of the united states. you were vehemently opposed to his nomination as attorney general. why and how do you think he is doing now, seven month in? i know his history. record. and a long history of being on the other side. not on the right side. i don't think he is doing too
well. the justice department. relative to civil rights. human rights. and, are there things that the, justice department is doing that, that, concerns you. i think the department of justice has a -- deaf ear. and has withdrawn from the participation in the process of looking out for the people. not moving people forward. and standing still. and the administration of president barack obama, we had a caring, active department of justice. >> and you mention barack obama. he was another marcher at that 50th anniversary. you locked arms with him. the first african-american president. first what did that mean to you? what did his election mean to you? >> well, the day of the evening when he was elected, i cried.
and some reporters asked me if i was crying so much. i said it was tears of happiness. tears of joy. and, i said, people are crying all over america. people are crying in other parts of the world. and those that are not with us today, are crying. and they're saying what are you going to do when he is inaugurated? if i have any tears left, i am going to cry some more. and that's exactly what high did. i cried for, for, dr. king. for robert kennedy. president kennedy. for the three civil rights workers. for those hundreds and thousands of people, that went to jail, who never, ever, lived to cast a volt. i cried for them. i cried for my -- my great grandparents. and for my own mother and my own father. >> yet at the end of the eight years, you know, polls were taken. people said they thought race relations were getting worse. in the country, why is senate.
>> i don't understand why people would say that, hear that. the election, the presidency of president barack obama, injected something very meaningful into the very vein of our country. gave people hope. some one just said to me a few days ago. i wish he could have been elect ford a third term. >> you speak movingly of your, your -- of your affection for him. and for, for, the meaning of his election iechl kn election. i know you struggled during the primary campaign. 2007, first endorsing hillary clinton then ultimately, barack obama. did you not believe that an african-american could get elected president of the united states? >> i thought it was possible. i became convinced that this one man could get elected and become president of the united states. and i was very proud to -- to join his team.
you are a loyal guy. was that if difficult? yeah, it is hard. very difficult. it was hard. i had kwn the clinton for many, many years. but i had to make a decision. i have what i call, an executive session with myself. ha-ha. i said -- self. self, listen. >> well that is an expa dish us way to get to a conclusion. having an executive session with yourself. another guy who walked, with you, arm in arm, in selma couple years ago, president george w. bush.boycotted his inauguration as well. yet you came to work with him on a project that you had been, involved in from the beginning which its to create an african-american museum of history in washington. in the smithsonian institute. which its now a reality.
how did that relationship develop? could you see that, with this president? >> well, i got to know president george w. bush. and he, i think he will, maybe did or tried to do, during the height of the civil rights movement. i got to know his father. matter of fact i gave him a book. to read about the movement. and he sent me a note, and -- and, the son, george w. bush, see him from time to time. he would invite us to the white house. we would talk. he embraced the building of -- of african-american museum on the mall. and his wife did. and they became partners in having us get it there. so when the legislation was passed, took me more than 15 years to get it through the congress. but it was passed.
he signed it into law. and, during the open, he came, and spoke. great nation does not hide its history. it faces its flaws and corrects them. >> it was a could you in today's environment have passed that legislation through congress. could you have gotten that museum? >> i thin tubing day would have been. almost impos bum. almost impossible. how do we reclaim that. you have spoken about reconciliation. a big part of your -- of your, of your commitment from the very, very beginning. >> well we. >> how do you break that? >> well, we can never give up on the possibility of being reconciled. bringing people together. creating what, dr. king and many, of us called beloved community. we must do what we can to redeem
people, redeem the soul of america. we are one people. we are one family. we all live in the same house. not just american house. but the world house. >> as you walk around this, this center, and you look at these photographs, and you see some of the film clips. what's very, very clear is the role, the news media played in, in, bringing your stories, to, to, the american public. and really -- shocking the conscious of -- of the american people. that was -- that was your intent i think. in some of the actions, thatou staged. could the civil rhts movement have succeeded, without that coverage. without, without, journalism? >> without journalism. >> what television. >> without journalism. without television, with that grave courageous cameraman. reporters, very, very dangerous david. very dangerous. to be a reporter. to have a, pencil and a pad. to be a photographer.
when members of the klan, when people, they just didn't beat on us, they, they tried to destroy the record. whether it was in atlanta. in mississippi. in alabama during the freedom rides. when we -- got off of that bus in montgomery and in may 1961, they first beat the reporters. you saw all these men, mostly men, very few women reporters back then. just bloody. and then they turn on us. >> i think one of the most momentous events in the civil rights movement was, when, abc -- cut into their screening of judgment in nuremberg which was a major new film at the time. ironically about nazi war crimes. to do 15 minutes of, of film, from bloody sunday.
chronicling a take on you and the people you were marching with. that as much as anything, probably led to the, the expediting of the voting rights act. they didn't like it. speaking up. start marching all across america. there was demonstration in more than 80 cities. on more than 80. college, university, campus. at the white house. at the department of justice. they were demanding that president johnson act. that the copping res act. would have been like a bird without wingsz. >> coming up next, on the "axe
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brewed with valencia orange peel for a refreshing taste that shines brighter. blue moon. >> what is it about your childhood, when can you pinpoint the exact moment when you were struck , the inequities you would end up fighting? >> as a young child about, 7, 8 years old. go downtown troy to the theater, see a movie. all of us, light children had to go upstairs to the balcony. all of the white children went down to the first floor. i kept asking my mother. my father. my uncles, aunts, grandparents, they were lick that's the way it is. don't get in the way. don't get in trouble. but in 1955, 15 years old.
i heard rosa parks. martin luther king jr. heard him on the radio. and, 57. i met rosa parks. the next year. in 58. martin luther king jr. i was inspired. >> you want off to nashville to study for the ministry. and, you became, more and more, involved in the social, social gospel, social, social ministry. you decided you were going to come back to troy state in alabama. you were going to integrate that, that college. and you wrote to martin luther ki king. and he wrote back. how did that happen. and what, what did you, he sent a tick tight see him. a bus ticket in montgomery. >> you are right. round trip, greyhound bus ticket. invited me to come to mont gummer you to meet with him. at this time. 1 years old. board aid bus to travel from troy to montgomery.
and a young lawyer, the name of fred gray. the lawyer for rosa parks. dr. king in the montgomery movement. met me at the greyhound bus station. and drove me to the first baptist church in downtown montgomery. and ushered me in the pastor's study. i saw dr. king. and the reverend, standing behi adesk. and, dr. king said to me. are you the boy from troy? are you john lewis? and i said, dr. king, i am john robert lewis. but he still called me, the boy from troy. and, we had a wonderful discussion. he said if you want to, want to attend troy state. now called troy university. we will help you. but we may have to file a suit. against the state of alabama. against troy state. but you need to have a discussion with your mother. and father.
the home could be bombed. or burned. they could lose the land. and i went back. i had a discussion with my mother and father. it was slow, so afraid something could happen. i continued to study in nashville. >> you. were you at all worried what it would mean for you to try and integrate that, that, that college. >> i mean. there was. i mean the history of that was, was, pretty in tim dating. >> i felt, strongly that, somebody, had to do something. i had been also inspired by the, by the, the young people in little rock. the little rock nine. said to me, if people in little rock arkansas can stand up. then i can do something. if people in montgomery. montgomery is 50 miles from where i grew up. i was deeply, about that. so, i went back to nashville. >> you did dosomeing? >> i got inlved. started studying.
the philosophy and the discipline, of nonviolent. studying the way of piece. the way of love. i wanted to look fresh. of what people call sharp. had very little money. went to the used men's store in downtown, nashville. and i bought a suit. and a vest came with it. so i paid $5 for the suit. my first arrest on february 27, 1960. $89 students, black and white, went to jail. became the first mass arrest in the city. >> this didn't sit well with your folks right? >> oh, no, no, no. they thought i lost my mind. thought i was out of it. >> but you have written that you found it, a liberating moment. that this was a, transitional moment. transformational moment. in your life. why? just being arrested. and, taking off to jail. and committed a crime. violated customs and traditions.
you became the first group organized to break these barriers. and, you, you had a dinner that you wrote about in your, splendid biography. in which you talked about th that -- the night, befor you, left for the ride. and, you said, as we passed around the bright silver containers of food. someone joked we should eat well and enjoy. because this might be our last supper. several in the group had actually written out wills. in case they didn't come back from this trip. it was that serious. it was that real. as the for me, just about all i owned, and was packed in my suitcase. there was no need for me to make out a will. i had nothing to leave anyone. you were 21 years old you. were contemplating death. as were obviously the other young people around you.
did you know at what that meant. could you absorb, what you were about to go through. >> i studied the way of peace. the way of love. philosophy of nonviolence. i, i thought, that we could, there was a possibility that we wouldn't return. but somebody, somegroup, had to be willing to give it all. >> you, but you studied, nonviolence. and peace. and love. but you weren't greeted with nonviolence. peace. and love. when you reached south carolina. you had, a confrontation. what happened there. >> when we arriveden a little town. called about, 30, 35 miles from charlotte. north carolina. my seat mate was young white gentleman. the two of us tried to enter a so-called white waiting room we
were attacked by members of the clan. >> this is what you would do? >> test the facilities. >> test the facilities in every stop. >> we would go to the waiting room. go to the restroom. go to the lunch counter. go to the cafeteria. and people, people would from time to time attack you. beat you. we were left, lying in the pool of blood. the local police officials came up. they wanted to know whether we wanted to press charges. we said no. we believe in peace. we believe, in a way of love. and, and -- many years later, david. many years later. to be exact a few days after president obama was inaugurated, one of the guys that beat us came to my office in washington.
he was in his 70s. with a son. in his 40s. he said, mr. lewis, i'm, i have been a member of the klan. i beat you. and your seat mate. he said, i went to apologize. will you forgive me. your son started crying. he started crying. i said, i forgive you. i accept your apology. they hugged me. i hugged them back. and i saw this gentleman four other times. he went out. he moved out of the election. and i think in a sense he got religion. and, and -- i think a lot of people did. >> so hearts can change. >> hearts can change. >> and we should, shouldn't,
ever give up on any one. >> you want to washington, and, and, you ultimately met with, president kennedy. but you were the youngest person included in that famous march on washington. the, the -- event at the lincoln memorial. which martin luther king made his, dramatic, speech. but your speech was quite controversial. >> we must wake up america, weak up! so we cannot stop. and we will not and cannot be patient. >> in fact, while the program was beginning. you as a 23-year-old, were standing behind the lincoln statue with the leaders of the civil rights movement. telling you that you had to change, change your speech. >> well, i didn't like the idea of the speech that we had prepared. to be, forced to change the speech. encouraged to change the speech. i remember, the dean of look leadership saying, can we stay together. can you change this?
can you change that? i remember, dr. king saying to me on one occasion. john that doesn't sound look you. and i couldn't say no to him. or dr. martin luther king jr. we made the changes. >> interesting, you were this young guy, the 23-year-old in the group of elders. and you were really representing students who had a -- a different, orientation. less patience. than some of the others. >> we were then, venting some of the frustration and the sense of discontent on the part so many people. to see so many people arrested and jailed and beaten. and -- seeing like washington were looking the other way. but on the day of the march, on the day of the march. the march was all over. president kennedy invited us down to the white house. and he stood in the door of the oval office. beaming like a proud father. and he kept saying -- yo did a good job, you did a good job. and when he got to dr. martin
luther king jr. he said you did a good job. you had a dream. >> the mississippi freedom summer. you, you, write in your book that you were inviting college students down from the north. mostly white students. not exclusively, and one of the reasons was that you felt and the leaders of the movement felt that if, if young white people were threatened in the way that, that, you would have been threatened and others had been threatened that it would -- it would shock the nation. it would get more attention. even before the mississippi summer you, lost -- three, three young men. two were from the north, white, what impact did that have on history. that was an unbelievable dark moment in the struggle for civil rights. we wanted. wanted some high and some way
for the nation to see mississippi. to see mississippi. see the south. by bringing the young people to mississippi. to the heart of the deep south. you have educate and sensitize people. >> this scene across the bridge, the impetus for the rights, your skull was cracked, you were gassed. you nearly gave your life for, for -- where do you say nonviolence has its limits. that violence invites defensive
violence. i never through it all, 40 years, arrests. period. beatings. never, ever, gave up on the idea of being committed to the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. you have to accept it as a way of life. and a way of living. if you will, stated over and over again. maybe i will our foremothers and forefathers. all came to this land in different ships. but we all loaded in the same bet now. dr. king put it another way. we got to learn to live together as brothers and sisters. if not we are going to perish as fools. >> coming up next on "the axe files." >> i never, ever gave of on the idea of being committed to the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. ♪ ♪ i am totally blind. and non-24 can make me show up too early... or too late.
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>> 1968 is the year i remember as a young man growing up, as, one of the most disturbing momentous, catastrophic years in history when all this violence began to, it felt like it was overwhelming. the country. you were right in the middle of a lot of the history. john f. kennedy had been %-p kennedy, the attorney general who came to your assistance, when you were young organizer in the south. what drew you to bobby kennedy? >> well, i -- i really admired him. i admired the energy and the sense of -- hope. that we can do it. we could, we could remake america. he inspired me.
>> you know what was striking about him as i recall. he was a hero of mine. he had an extraordinary ability to reach across class lines. to reach across -- racial lines that i really have, not seen since. what was it about him that, that allowed him to go into poor white communities, poor black communities, working classette ne ethnic white communities in the urban areas and come away with people feeling like he was their advocate. >> i think we all, we all saw something in him. that was real. that he had this, the ability, capacity to identify with people. whether, black, white, latino, asian-american, native american. it was, it was his whole being. that he cared. >> his brother's assassination had something to do with it?
>> oh, it changed him. made him a different person. it drove him to say to himself, you know, i will use my time to make things better. >> it is interesting. you were surrounded by martyrs. and the survivors of martyrs. and his brother -- in a sense was as well. was that a -- i remember, very clearly, the night on, april 4th. of 1968, when martin luther king was killed in memphis. you were with robert kennedy in indianapolis. you were organizing for him. in the indiana primary. i know local authorities didn't want him to speak. they were worried about violence there. just an obligation. it was -- the right thing for
him to do. to come and identify with the people. i heard that dr. king had been shot. but i dent knidn't know that he diechltd died. it was robert kennedy made the announcement. >> martin luther king dedicated his life to love and to justice. between fellow human beings. he died in the cause of that effort. >> so when he made the announcement on that stage, was the first time that you knew that dr. king, king had died. >> right. uh-huh. >> how did that, how did that strike you? as, formative as, as dr. king was in your life? >> it was, it made me very sad. i cried. a lot of us in the audience. black and white. we cried. it was bobbyomethinged that i w
his staffers return to atlanta to help in the preparation for the funeral. >> he cried as well? >> he cried, yeah. we went back to his hotel room. and we met and we talked. and, and, i remember. when he came to atlanta. and the baptist church to carry dr. king's body. and bobby kennedy, the day of the funeral was one of the few -- one of the few white politicians that walked all the way through the streets of atlanta. from that church to the morehouse college campus with hundreds and thousands of people. without any one -- just saying a word. just, just silence. a few months later you were with him in los angeles.
>> with cesar chavez, who was working the hispanic precincts. >> i remember so well. >> labor organizer. >> we team up from time to time. went into some of the wealthy, white, neighborhood. in los angeles. trying to convince people to vote for bobby. rather than, than for humphrey or mccarthy. and some how he knew that he was going to carry the state of california. and he did. >> you were with him right before he went out to make his victory speech that night. what did he say to you? >> well, he sort of joke with me. he said, john, you let me done to day. more mexican-americans turned out to vote than negros. he said i am going down to speak. you wait here. and i waited in his suite with his sister jean kennedy smith.
and, jack newfield of the village voice. and teddy white. several other, jaws jaws- edga mevers' brother. >> did the assassin's bullet that killed robert kennedy change the course of history? >> i truly believe the assassin bullet had changed the course of history. i think something died in all of us. something died in america. it was more than the death of a political leader. the spirit died. and those of us who lived through the period, it is very hard, very difficult. to recover from it, from what happened. we would have ended the war in vietnam, much earlier, i think. and i believe i truly believe that robert kennedy would have
been elected president of the united states of america. and the young people in this country, young people around the world, would be so different. would have been another, unbelievable generation of young leaders. >> coming up next, on "the axe files." >> someone would come up and spit on you. hot water, coffee, chocolate on you. you would have gotten arrested and take in to jail. ♪ ♪ not at night. only tempur-breeze® mattresses use an integrated system of technologies to keep you cool while you sleep. so you wake up feeling powerful. save up to $500 on select tempur-breeze® mattress sets. find the breeze that's right for you at tempurpedic.com keep your hair strong against styling damage... ...with pantene 3 minute miracle daily conditioner. a super concentrated pro-v formula makes hair stronger*... ...in just 3 minutes. so it's smoother every day. because strong is beautiful.
don't stop now, it's easy to add to the routine. join energy upgrade california and do your thing. so this room encompasses a lot of those early battles that you fought to kind of defined, you're like here is a replica of a freedom ride bus. like the ones that you rode. >> i think your mug shot is some where here. >> how many times were you arrested? >> during the 60s, i was arrested 40 times. the sit-ins, the free dm rides, standing in the theater. >> one of the things about the freedom ride is that -- that some of the elders of the civil rights movement did not want you to continue. they wanted you to, the students
to stop. how did that get resolved? >> well we, made hey decision. that we couldn't stop. we couldn't, couldn't let the opposition have a victory. we were determined to see that, that the -- that the bus stations and buses and waiting rooms desegregated across the south. >> how many months did take it for you to prevail? >> it took, from -- from may 1961 and november 1st, 1961. >> how did you feel? when -- when the bus companies gave in, when the local communities, gave in? >> it was a great feeling. a great victory for the movement. and the movement need victories. dr. king was set from time to time, give us some victories. you keep people together. you keep building. >> your career as an organizer and protester and advocate, civil rights advocate began at
the lunch counters in nashville as the we discussed. this is a replica of one of those lunch counters. and -- through those ear phones, is, is a depiction of the scene that you faced as you sat there. i want to ask you to sit down. put those headphones on. and then let's talk when you are, when you are done. >> okay. i'm going to take this fork, i'm going to jam it right into your neck. if you don't leave now. get up.. [ glass breaking] [ sirens]
>> how painful is it to hear those scenes? >> surreal. it is real. >> do you have those experiences still vivid in your memory 57 years later -- 56 years later? >> yes. yes. >> just listening to that, it is -- it's really hard to fathom how one sits there and experiences not just the violence but the degradation. >> but people had the ability to do it day in and day out, to sit and take it and just look straight ahead.
someone would come up and spit on you, pour out hot water, coffee, chocolate on you. and you'd get arrested and taken to jail. >> itas both discipline and dignity to do that. it led to another victory. you were allowed to, within months deseg reigate the lunch counter. >> because people had the cap capacity to sit on those stools. >> coming up next on the "ax files." >> you were reconciled with die sng. >> oh, yes. you prepare for it. ♪ binders, done. super-cool notebooks, done. that's mom taking care of business. but who takes care of mom? office depot/office max. this week, get this ream of paper for just one cent after rewards. ♪ taking care of business. "how to win at business." step one:
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this is an extraordinary room. this is a mural of laws from the '60s when you were putting yourself on the line all over this country and it really speaks to what the sacrifices that you and others made produced in terms of progress. over here are the history makers. >> evers. naacp leader. served in the military. >> shot in front of his family in his driveway. >> he was a brave and curages man. it was very dangerous to be a naacp leader. >> and you were his age. >> 1955. >> he was accused of whistling at white woman and was savagely beaten. >> i kept thinking to myself
this could happen to any of my cousins. so many people all across america identify with what happened to this young man. i come back to this place sometime you come to reserve and realize the commitment he made . i'm told it covers the bus you were supposed to be on and for a chance you took a break from the freedom ride. people who attacked this bus, threw in a maolotov cocktail. did you feel guilty about not having been on the bus? >> i felt i should have been there. but i try to makeup for it. >> you were reconciled with dying, that this was a real possibility?
>> oh, yes. you prepare for it. there come a time when you have to stand up for something and speak up. in the process you may get hurt. you may lose your life. it's unreal. it's my first time seeing this. >> did you feel responsible for the grou >> yeah. the group that continue i felt very much responsible because i was the spokesperson because we were on our way to new orleans and we never really made it. now tell young people today the only place you'll see those signs today in a book, a museum or in a video. they're gone and our country's a much better place.
>> thank you. >> thank you. thank you. ♪ good evening we begin with new developments about the meeting don jr. held with a rushz attorney he had been told was a russian government attorney with dirt on hillary clinton from the russian government. trump legal team member joins us with reaction. there were as many as eight people in that room. of reasons.nificant for a number yet again the story that donald trump jr. has publicly told continues to change. for days the president has been praising his son's transparency. let's remem