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John Lewis: I 'Never Saw' Bernie Sanders During Civil Rights Era

Rep. John Lewis questioned Sen. Bernie Sanders' authenticity to African American activism on Thursday. The prominent Civil Rights leader claims the the Vermont senator was absent during the most tumultuous years of the African American movement.
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Rep. John Lewis questioned Sen. Bernie Sanders' commitment to promote racial equality during the civil rights era, saying he "never saw him" during the most tumultuous years of the movement.

"I never saw him. I never met him," the Georgia congressman said. "I was chair of the student non-violent coordinating committee for 3 years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom ride, the march on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed the board of education project for six years."

Lewis added, "But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton."

Lewis' comment praising the Clinton's activism happened during the Congressional Black Caucus PAC's press event announcing their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Members representing the CBC PAC largely acknowledged Clinton as a consistent "Democrat" and advocate for African-American rights and racial equality.

In response to Lewis' comment, Sanders' campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs told NBC that "Bernie is a great admirer of Congressman Lewis."

Sanders was a prominent figure during the Civil Rights movement by participating in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee while attending the University of Chicago in the 1960s. While part of the Congress on Racial Equality group on campus, Sanders was arrested for trying to desegregate school housing.

Sanders also attended the March on Washington in 1963 at 22-years-old. Lewis spoke at the historic event, which is where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Lewis' charge against Sanders comes at a time when both Democratic candidates are vying for African-American support moving into the South Carolina primary. Clinton currently holds a strong advantage with African American voters in several states.