By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Civil rights champion Reverend James M. Lawson on Saturday launched sharp criticisms of Governor Bill Lee, accusing the Republican of having a “hole in the middle of his soul.”
“Somehow you’ve lived in this world and in the state of Tennessee and allowed a hole to move through the middle of your soul,” Lawson said. “It means you have rejected being born by creation, coming to life, being a human being, and being in God’s design and imagination.”
Lawson delivered his speech to a Nashville audience at a ceremony honoring U.S. Representative John Lewis. Lawson led a series of nonviolence workshops for student leaders as a theology student at Vanderbilt University. These sessions culminated with the sit-ins of 1960 that led to the successful integration of the Nashville lunch counters, where Lewis participated with other black civil rights leaders.
On Saturday, Lawson did not elaborate on what exactly Lee had done to prompt his strict reprimand. Instead, he snapped a scene from the 1993 western movie “Tombstone” where Doc Holiday explains that Johnny Ringo is being driven to evil because he has an “empty hole in the middle of him”.
A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
Lee’s administration has come under a nationwide review over the past week after the Health Department sacked the state’s immunization chief amid Republican outrage over his efforts to vaccinate adolescents against COVID-19. He has also been criticized by Democrats for ending additional federal unemployment assistance while promoting a new initiative that uses $ 2.5 million in taxpayer dollars to offer flight vouchers to out-of-town residents. of State.
“You have a hole in the middle of your soul,” Lawson said to applause and cheers. “You act the way you act because you are heading in the wrong direction of your own life. “
This is not the first time that a civil rights leader has run into Lee. In 2019, Reverend William Barber gathered a crowd to support a wide range of issues, from universal healthcare to the living wage for the poor. Lee was present, but notably did not stand up when Barber asked the crowd to stand up to show his support.
“I’m not fussing with you, I’m saying it’s time to end partisanship and do what’s right,” Barber said at the time.
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