What will John Lewis do?

No one seems sure of the civil rights leader and congressman's intentions regarding his presidential endorsement and superdelegate vote.

Published February 15, 2008 5:35PM (EST)

Thursday evening, it seemed as if Hillary Clinton's campaign had suffered a severe blow -- Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who endorsed Clinton last year, was switching sides, to Barack Obama.

It was Thursday evening when the New York Times posted on its Web site an article that read, "Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention ... [Lewis] said that as a superdelegate he could 'never, ever do anything to reverse the action' of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama ... Though Mr. Lewis had praise for Mrs. Clinton and for her historic candidacy, he said he could decide within days whether to formally endorse Mr. Obama."

But within hours, the veracity of the story was already in doubt. On the Washington Post blog the Trail, reporter Anne Kornblut wrote, "The Clinton campaign reported having no word from Lewis on the subject, and a spokeswoman for Lewis, Brenda Jones, said the Times story and a similar one by the Associated Press, saying he was contemplating such a switch, were inaccurate ... The Obama campaign also said that Lewis and Obama had not talked recently about a change of heart.

"'It is plain there is a lot of enthusiasm for Barack Obama,' Jones said. But, she said, 'those things are observations,' not statements of preference. She said Lewis has left the option of changing his superdelegate support for Clinton on the table, but made no decisions."

It's now Friday, and it seems like we have some degree of clarity on what's happening.

Jeff Zeleny, one of the Times reporters for the original article, appeared on CNN Friday morning and stuck by his story.

Also, NBC News' First Read blog reported, "Jones told NBC News that [Lewis] is NOT changing his endorsement of Clinton. But it appears that he will his cast his superdelegate vote for Obama." Literally a minute later, though, the same reporter put up a new post in which he asked, "Are we understanding John Lewis? ... Lewis' office is adamant that Lewis isn't endorsing Obama. So is that the distinction? That he isn't changing his endorsement, but will cast his superdelegate vote for Obama? Pardon us if we're a bit confused."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Hillary Rodham Clinton John Lewis D-ga.