Transcript of Pelosi Interview on CBS This Morning with Gayle King

July 20, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Gayle King on CBS This Morning to discuss the life and legacy of Congressman John Lewis.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

Gayle King.  First on CBS This Morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins us to discuss the legacy that Lewis has left behind.  He served more than 30 years in Congress, and just four months ago, Lewis marched with Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers to mark the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.  I love this picture.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins us to discuss. 

Good morning to you, Madam Speaker.  Oh, what a life he lived.  I've been thinking about him, as we all have all weekend.  I'm wondering when was the last conversation you had with him and if you're comfortable sharing what you two talked about?

Speaker Pelosi.  The last conversation I had with him was on Thursday.  And that was a sad one.  I didn't know it was the last.  But I had had some conversations with him, but we never talked about his dying until – until that day.  Talked about – he always said he wanted to go home.  He was going home to heaven.

Gayle King.  You know, I stayed up last night watching the documentary Good Trouble.  It's really good, highly recommend it on Amazon.  You're featured in the documentary.  In it, you said that he was the conscience – he challenged the conscience of the Congress.  How so?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I love that documentary because it says so much –

Gayle King.  I did, too.

Speaker Pelosi.  – about John.  But there's so much more because he was just remarkable every single day.  I served with him for 33 years in the Congress of the United States.  And he, again, challenged our conscience in so many ways in terms of equality and justice.  And it was justice for all. 

Of course he made his mark for equality in the south and voting rights for the African American community, but he went well beyond that.  He stood with us when we introduced the Equality Act, which was to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  He stood with us when we were talking about women's rights and everything that that involves.  He stood with us when we passed the Affordable Care Act. 

It saddens me to say that when he was helping us with that, that was 2010, there were people who were picketing the Capitol, and they –  now, this is only 2010, that recently – that recent, they shouted profanities at him.  They – they spat on him, ten years ago. 

So, there's something that – you know, our work has not been done. 

The most wonderful thing that I love about the very end of his life, the last really public appearance that he made was to go and identify with Black Lives Matter painted on the street with the Mayor of Washington, D.C.; his connection to all of that.  It's such an iconic moment, such an iconic photo. 

Right before that, he had had – shortly before that he had had a town hall meeting with President Obama, another connection to the future.  Someone the – President Obama being inspired by John Lewis.  So, he –

Gayle King.  Yeah, Madam Speaker?  He was very proud, he told us, of the Black Lives Matter and was insistent that there be peaceful protests always.  I noticed you got choked up when you were talking about him being spat upon.  I totally understand the pain of that.  He seemed to love a country that sometimes didn't love him back.  He was able to do that. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, he was a patriot.  He was a patriot, and the one thing about John is he was truly committed to nonviolence in every way, as was Reverend Vivian who died the very same day he did, such a coincidence.  But the – the thing – when his nonviolence took him to a place that led him to respect people even who disagreed with him so vehemently that they would engage in an act of violence, but he would reach out in friendship, always.  He was saintly in that regard.

Not many of us could do that.

Gayle King.  Yeah, yeah, saintly.


Speaker Pelosi.  I'm sorry, I was going to say, my colleague, Jim Clyburn, who is the Whip of the House – the Democratic Whip of the House, he said, ‘It's a good thing I wasn't with John on some of his challenges, because I'm not sure I would have been as nonviolent as he was in the face of some of the – the attacks that were made on him.’ 

Gayle King.  I heard him say that.  He said he didn't think that he would have the restraint that John Lewis had.  The other thing about him is that people on both sides of the aisle wanted to be associated with him.  He was able to bridge that gap, especially during these times.  How was he able to do that do you think? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, he was really a very special person, and the respect that he had for every person came back to him.  You're so right.  On both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol and by and large, down Pennsylvania Avenue most of the time, he had commanded great respect and had great rapport. 

He did believe – he did believe that all of us had a spark of divinity in us that made us worthy of respect, and he treated people in that vein in that they had the spark of divinity.  And he did, too, and that called upon him to rise to a higher level of engagement.  He was a model to the rest of us. 

I sent a note to my colleagues this morning and said in terms of arrangements and the rest.  But I closed it and said we, all of us who worked with John in Congress knew that he always worked on the side of the angels, and now he is with them.

Gayle King.  Yeah, so as we remember him and we celebrate him today, two things I’m curious what you're thinking.  How can Congress best honor him?  And how can we the people, best honor him? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I'll tell you what my granddaughter said, she's ten.  She loved John, and all my children and grandchildren do.  But children loved him.  No wonder he did a comic book because he connected with them in every possible way.

In any event, she said she cried when she heard he passed, and then she said, ‘Well, why didn't they revive him?  Why didn't they revive him?’  I said, ‘Well, he's passed.  He's going home to heaven.’  And she said, ‘Well then, we’ll just have to make sure his ideas live.’  That's probably how we all, Congress and otherwise, honor John Lewis. 

One way we could is for the Senate to pass the Voting Rights Act and name it for John Lewis.  That would be a very appropriate way to honor him most immediately. 

Gayle King.  All right, Madam Speaker.  You know people, let's see, let's see how this turns out.  That would be quite a tribute to him.  Thank you very much for taking the time with us this morning.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Very touching to John.

Gayle King.  We really appreciate it.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you. 

Gayle King.  Yes, bye bye.