CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord is under fire on social media for describing President Trump at "the Martin Luther King of healthcare."
Lord made the remarks Thursday on CNN's "New Day" during a discussion on a report that President Trump is threatening to cut subsidies to the poor under the Affordable Care Act as a way to get Democrats to negotiate with him on healthcare reform.
"Think of Donald Trump as the Martin Luther King of healthcare," Lord told CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota. "When I was a kid, President Kennedy did not want to introduce the civil rights bill because he said it wasn't popular and he didn't have the votes for it."
"Dr. King kept putting people in the streets in harm's way to put the pressure on so the bill would be introduced," Lord added.
Using the civil rights leader to make a point about the president's proposed hardball tactic outraged Democratic activist Symone Sanders, the other panelist in the discussion.
"You do understand that Dr. King was marching for civil rights because people that looked like me were being beaten, dogs were being sicced on them, basic human rights were being withheld from these people merely because of the color of their skin," she said. "So let's not equate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner — to the vagina-grabbing president, Donald Trump."
Lord's remarks were met with immediate scorn on Twitter, where the the exchange was a trending topic.
"Embarrassing: why does CNN allow this. There are thoughtful credible [Republicans] who can talk about the health care debate," said veteran TV journalist Soledad O'Brien, who once worked as an anchor at the network.
Dozens of others found the comparison inappropriate or worse.
"Don't be upset with Jeffrey Lord, who is a proven imbecile. Be angry with CNN for casting him in that role," wrote Marlow Stern, senior entertainment editor at the Daily Beast.
Lord did not let up on his point despite the mounting criticism. On his Twitter account, he cited King's famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" — one of the most important documents of the civil rights movement — to justify his remarks. "Deliberately creating force negotiation was MLK doctrine," he wrote.
Lord is a Republican strategist who worked in the administration of President Reagan. He has been regularly featured as a pro-Trump pundit on CNN going back to 2015.
A CNN representative did not respond to a request for comment about Lord's remarks.