Rubio, Sullivan confuse John Lewis for Elijah Cummings

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan on Saturday in since-deleted social media posts shared photos with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings when honoring Rep. John Lewis.
  • Cummings and Lewis had frequently been confused for one another during their lifetimes, so much so that Lewis in 2019 joked he would grow a beard to differentiate himself from Cummings. 
  • Lewis, a civil rights icon, died Friday at the age of 80 after a bout with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.
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Two GOP lawmakers on Saturday mistakenly shared photos of the late Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings in posts about the death of the civil rights icon Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who died Friday after a bout with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. 

“It was an honor to know & be blessed with the opportunity to serve in Congress with JohnLewis a genuine & historic American hero. May the Lord grant him eternal peace,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote in a tweet Saturday afternoon.

But as many on Twitter were quick to point out, the picture the Florida senator shared did not show him with Lewis, but instead with another late Black lawmaker — Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings who died unexpectedly in October 2019 at the age of 68.

The photo was even briefly Rubio’s profile image on Twitter before it along with his tweet disappeared.

Rubio John Lewis tweet

In a since-deleted tweet, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote about the death of John Lewis but attached a photo of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Marco Rubio/Twitter

In a follow-up tweet, Rubio acknowledged he “tweeted an incorrect photo” and shared what appears to be a screenshot image of himself with Lewis from 2017 appearance in Miami. 


In a since-deleted post to Facebook later Saturday, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan made a similar error, writing “America has lost a legend with the passing of Congressman John Lewis of Georgia,” alongside a photo that showed him with Cummings outside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. 


“Senator Sullivan’s staff made a mistake trying to honor an American legend,” a spokesperson for Sullivan later told CNN. Sullivan had used the same image in a Facebook post last year about the Cummings’ death.

Rubio and Sullivan’s flub was not the first time that the two late congressmen had been confused for one another. The two African American legislators had been mistaken for each other so much that in an April 2019 press release, Lewis wrote that he was considering growing a beard to set him apart from his colleague from Maryland.

“Just this weekend, I went to church in Maryland,” Lewis said in a statement last year. “Someone came up to me and said, ‘Hi, Mr. Cummings!  I vote for you all the time.’ I just said thank you.  What else could I say?  That’s when I decided, I should just grow a beard.”

Lewis in the statement suggested the comparisons were because both African American lawmakers were bald, calling such mistakes “baldist.” 

Media outlets from CBS News to Fox News have also previously confused the two lawmakers. Earlier this year, CBS News showed a photo of Cummings, who had already died, during a segment on “CBS Evening News” about Lewis’ cancer diagnosis. 

“People stop me all the time and tell me they’re from Maryland,” Lewis wrote in the April 2019 statement. “I’m John Lewis, from Georgia. Rep. Cummings is a good friend of mine, but we’re not the same person.

“I considered getting a tattoo on the back of my head, just to clear things up. I tried to convince Elijah to get one too, but that didn’t go over so well. 

Read more: 

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Nancy Pelosi, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and more mourn the death of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died at 80

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