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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan April 8, 2008

McCain changed position on MLK Day

The left-leaning advocacy group has created an e-mail warning voters against Sen. John McCain, listing 10 things it says people might not know about him.

"Please check out the list below, and then forward it to your friends, family, and coworkers," the e-mail says. "We can't rely on the media to tell folks about the real John McCain — but if we all pass this along, we can reach as many people as CNN Headline News does on a good night."

Item No. 1 is about Martin Luther King Jr.

"John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now he says his position has 'evolved,' yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws," the e-mail states.

It's true that as a congressman 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 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.

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"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.

As for opposing key civil rights laws, McCain scores very low from two groups that rate Congress on issues involving civil rights law.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights rates congressmen on their voting records. For the most recent 110th Congress, it rated senators on an array of votes on such things such as immigration, voting rights, education and the judiciary. McCain scored 22 percent on his votes, voting in favor of the conference's positions twice, on immigration issues. (Sen. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, scored 92 percent, while Sen. Barack Obama scored 100 percent. These percentages omit missed votes.)

The American Civil Liberties Union also rates McCain poorly, giving him a 17 percent rating for the 110th Congress and a 22 percent lifetime rating.

Some news stories have given a more nuanced account of McCain's history on civil rights and the black community. (See Politico's April 8, 2008, story on John McCain and Arizona's black community .) But MoveOn gets its facts right on McCain, MLK Day and the senator's voting record, so we rate this statement True.


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McCain changed position on MLK Day

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