Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Claims about MLK often go astray

Atlanta, the birthplace of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., holds an annual parade to celebrate the federal holiday commemorating his birthday. Here, marchers walk the parade route for the 2013 celebration. Photo credit: Brant Sanderlin/AJC
Atlanta, the birthplace of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., holds an annual parade to celebrate the federal holiday commemorating his birthday. Here, marchers walk the parade route for the 2013 celebration. Photo credit: Brant Sanderlin/AJC

In the four decades since his death, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has become, perhaps, the most quoted and misquoted figured in America.

With today being King’s birthday, PolitiFact Georgia thought it would be timely to look at some claims concerning the Atlanta native and civil rights legend. Not surprisingly, many of these claims needed some context or were flat-out wrong.

Here is a round-up on a few fact-checks involving King.

King was a Republican.

PolitiFact has fact-checked this claim three times.

Several individuals and groups have claimed King was a member of the GOP. King’s father was a Republican, not surprising at a time when most Southern Democrats supported segregation. His niece, Alveda C. King, said in 2008 that "during his lifetime, [King] was a Republican."

But in 2008, King's son, Martin Luther King III, said it was "disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican. He never endorsed any presidential candidate, and there is certainly no evidence that he ever even voted for a Republican."

PolitiFact found that King scholars agree with King's son.

King, himself, reported in his autobiography that he wrote to one supporter in 1956 that, "In the past, I always voted the Democratic ticket." King, though, never publicly endorsed one particular party.

As we mentioned, PolitiFact has fact-checked this claim three times. And in each instance, PolitiFact has rated it False.

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King marched with Mitt Romney’s father.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, made the claim several times over the years.

Romney’s father, George, served as governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969. He died in 1995.

Three newspapers have tried and failed to find evidence of the two men marching together. The Boston Phoenix first checked Romney's statement and concluded it was false. Subsequent examinations by the Detroit Free Press and the Boston Globe found no news stories linking the two men to the same event.

PolitiFact reviewed New York Times archives and found articles discussing marches that King and George Romney participated in separately, but never a mention of the two marching together. Two witnesses also Politico, a political news web site, that they remembered the men marching together almost 45 years ago in Grosse Pointe. But newspaper accounts from the time and historians contradict these assertions. There is no other support for the contention that the men were in Grosse Pointe together.

PolitiFact rated the claim Mostly False.

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"John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

In early 2008, the left-leaning advocacy group MoveOn.org sent out an e-mail warning voters against Sen. John McCain, R-Az., listing 10 things it says people might not know about him.

In 1983, McCain voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday. He was on the losing end of a 338 to 90 vote in the House of Representatives.

McCain, who was the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, no longer stands by that vote. On April 4, 2008 — the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's death — McCain said the vote was wrong in a speech he gave in Memphis, the city where King died.

"We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I myself made long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong," he said, to loud reaction from the crowd. "I was wrong, and eventually realized it in time to give full support — full support — for a state holiday in my home state of Arizona. I'd remind you that we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans."

So McCain did oppose the national holiday, even though he later supported the state holiday.

PolitiFact rated the claim True.