On Saturday afternoon, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted his tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis, but mistakenly included a photo of himself with Elijah Cummings instead. Although Rubio deleted the tweet, several users caught screenshots of the post. Rubio was condemned as a racist for the mistake, and for insensitivity so soon after Lewis' death.
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia passed away on Friday, prompting a slew of tributes all around the U.S. Even Republicans like Rubio — who typically opposed Lewis' legislation — paid their respects, though many thought that Rubio would have been better off keeping silent. Not only did he tweet a photo of himself with former Congressman Cummings, but he also made that photo his profile picture before catching his mistake. Within an hour of the tweet, Rubio was trending on Twitter.
That's Elijah Cummings. Not John Lewis. pic.twitter.com/6tfDIKA0kP— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 18, 2020
Many users remarked on how different Lewis and Cummings look, particularly in the photo Rubio shared. Many argued by the process of elimination that the only way Rubio could have made this mistake was through racism.
On the lighter side, many users shared photos of other White politicians, public figures or simply white-colored objects, pretending to mistake them for photos of Rubio. Before long, a new meme format had emerged. Rubio was compared to Ted Cruz, Ronald McDonald and a wet tube sock, all within the space of an hour.
honoured to know marco rubio and share this photo of him pic.twitter.com/HGSD59SWBM— David Mack (@davidmackau) July 18, 2020
Lewis was not only an accomplished lawmaker but a civil rights activist as well. In the 1960s, Lewis worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. to end racial segregation in the U.S. He was the last surviving member of "The Big Six" — the civil rights leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington, where King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Cummings was a civil rights activist as well, who grew up during the movement that Lewis helped to pioneer. Cummings passed away in October of 2019 from undisclosed health issues. Lewis' death has been attributed to pancreatic cancer, with which he was diagnosed back in December. At the time, Lewis gave a stirring speech about his life and the fight ahead of him.
"I have been in some kind of fight- for freedom, equality, basic human rights - for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now," He said at the time. He later wrote: "So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross."