Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is catching heat after crediting President Donald Trump and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, among other Republicans for establishing a national monument honoring slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
The issue? A Black congressman had been spearheading the effort for years.
On Tuesday, Trump signed a bill that expanded on measures taken by former President Barack Obama and designated the Jackson, Miss., home of Evers and his wife, Myrlie Evers, as a national monument. The signing was cause for celebration, and Bryant wasted no time showing his appreciation to the state’s Republican senators.
“Thank you to @realDonaldTrump for signing legislation today to designate Medgar and Myrlie Evers home as a National Monument,” he wrote on Twitter. “@SenatorWicker and @SenHydeSmith have worked very hard on this for some time and are to be commended.”
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson didn’t appreciate being looked over, however.
“Give adequate credit,” Thompson replied to Bryant’s tweet. “I’ve worked on this for 16 years.”
Thank you to @realDonaldTrump for signing legislation today to designate Medgar and Myrlie Evers home as a National Monument. @SenatorWicker & @SenHydeSmith have worked very hard on this for some time and are to be commended. pic.twitter.com/ORtKS4fE0Y
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 12, 2019
The Mississippi Democrat said he’s spent several years working to make the Evers’ home a national landmark and blasted Bryant, who has a history of making dog whistle statements, for failing to give recognition where it’s due. Speaking to Jackson station WJ-TV, Thompson said: “Gov. Bryant historically has been against civil rights in this state and for him to try to capture this moment is disingenuous on his part. You cannot get on this train when it’s left the station 16 years ago and try to pretend you were conductor.”
The designation comes just months after Bryant’s racist “baby daddies” remark during an annual criminal justice reform summit where he attributed the lack of committed dads in the home to criminality. What’s worse, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith found herself mired in controversy after she made a crass joke about public lynchings during her on the trail of her 2018 campaign against Black opponent Mike Espy.
The governor on Wednesday issued sharp words in response to Thompson’s claims.
“It’s sad that Congressman Thompson so desires personal acclaim that he shatters what should be a time of celebration for all Mississippians with this designation,” he said in a statement. “His anger and hatred are the very characteristics that separated our people in the civil rights era. He has become a tragic figure who has squandered this opportunity to help bring our state together.”
Despite this, critics flocked to social media to show their support for Thompson, who introduced bills to make Evers’ home a national monument in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, the Jackson Free Press reported.
“No @PhilBryantMS, YOU give credit where credit is due,” journalist Roland Martin tweeted. “To act as if only Republicans made the designation of Medgar and Myrlie Evers home a reality is BS. Your omission of @BennieGThompson was deliberate and mean-spirited. He should be offended.”
“A governor giving credit to Trump and two Senators while omitting the work of a Congressman who endured Jim Crow in Mississippi is intolerable and unacceptable,” California Rep. Karen Bass added. “Thank you Congressman
@BennieGThompson for your DECADES of work on this issue to honor Medgar and Myrlie Evers and to make sure this country does not forget its history.”
Twitter user @MaisieBrownJxn also opined: “Phil Bryant (purposely) disregarding the work Congressman Thompson has done over the years is not only disrespectful.. but by giving credit to some congress people who could care LESS about the actual achievement is more offensive. it all reeks of white supremacy. gross.”
Starting in 1954, Medgar Evers served as Mississippi’s first NAACP field secretary. He was lauded for his voter registration efforts and economic boycotts, and worked to investigate crimes committed against Black Americans. Evers was assassinated by a white nationalist outside his family’s home on June 12, 1963.
“I know the Evers family personally,” Thompson told WJTV. I’ve dedicated the post office in Jackson, Mississippi, that’s my bill that Medgar Evers’s name is on the building. … So I’m comfortable with where I stand, it’s just the Johnny-come-latelies all of a sudden want to take credit for something they had nothing to do with. … If they are now making it partisan and don’t include the Democrat who filed the original bill, it’s politics.”