Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he respects Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), but noted the Georgia Democrat's status as a civil rights leader doesn't make him immune to criticism.
"I do appreciate him being a civil rights icon, but I would also say that that doesn't make us immune from criticism or debate," Paul said on "CNN's "State of the Union."
"So John Lewis isn't in a position where there can't be a healthy debate back and forth. Because he's a civil rights icon shouldn't make him immune."
Paul said when discussions involve race, they get "very sensitive."
"None of us actually want to be considered to be the racially insensitive and so it's a very, very important subject, but I think we shouldn't ignore that people are partisan," Paul said.
"So John Lewis is a partisan. I have a great deal of respect for him, but he's a partisan and I disagree with him on issues. I should be able to honestly disagree with him and not have it all come back to I have no appreciation for a civil rights icon because of this."
Lewis was a key civil rights leader in the 1960s as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was frequently arrested and beaten by police officers at protests, including on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE on Saturday targeted Lewis after the Democrat questioned the president-elect's legitimacy and said he wouldn't be attending the inauguration.
"I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said in an interview with NBC on Friday.
“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he added.
Trump hit back, accusing Lewis of not doing enough for his district and delivering "no action or result."