What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 23, 2012

Jack Kelly Sunday

In a column about a particular stream of liberal racism, Jack Kelly (conservative columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) ended things with these three paragraphs:
What does it say about liberals that so many think only losers and whiners can be authentically black?

To demand people think or act a certain way because of the color of their skin is the essence of racism. That's why Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when his children would be judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

But then, according to his niece, MLK was a Republican.
It's Sunday and I am in a particular antsy fact-checking mood.  So let me start with that last sentence and ask, is that true?

While it's certainly true that Dr. King's niece said that, a responsible columnist (or at the very least a responsible newspaper employing that columnist) would verify whether what Dr. King's niece said was actually true.  If it isn't, then passing along her falsehood conflicts with the mission of any newspaper: to inform the public.

Turns out what she said isn't true.

Politifact checked this story out 11 months ago and found it to be "false."  Part of their evidence goes back even further:
However, in a 2008 Associated Press story, King’s son and namesake Martin Luther King III said:"It is 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. It is even more outrageous to suggest he would support the Republican Party of today, which has spent so much time and effort trying to suppress African American votes in Florida and many other states."
Then there's the letter of 1 October 1956 to Viva Sloan who asked him about the Eisenhower-Stevensen presidential race of that year. In the letter he wrote:
In the past I have always voted the Democratic ticket.
But that was 1956. What about the next election, in 1960?  In the book, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, there's this passage:
I was grateful to Senator Kennedy for the genuine concern he expressed in my arrest. After the call I made a statement to the press thanking him but not endorsing him. Very frankly, I did not feel at that time that there was much difference between Kennedy and Nixon. I could find some things in the background of both men that I didn't particularly agree with. Remembering what Nixon had done out in California to Helen Gahegen Douglas, I felt that he was an opportunist at many times who had no real grounding in basic convictions, and his voting record was not good. He improved when he became vice president, but, when he was a congressman and a senator, he didn't have a good voting record.

With Mr. Kennedy, after I looked over his voting record, I felt at points that he was so concerned about being president of the United States that he would compromise basic principles to become president. But I had to look at something else beyond the man-the people who surrounded him-and I felt that Kennedy was surrounded by better people. It was on that basis that I felt that Kennedy would make the best president.

I never came out with an endorsement. My father did, but I never made one. I took this position in order to maintain a nonpartisan posture, which I have followed all along in order to be able to look objectively at both parties at all times. As I said to him all along, I couldn't, and I never changed that even after he made the call during my arrest. I made a statement of thanks, and I expressed my gratitude for the call, but in the statement I made it clear that I did not endorse any candidate and that this was not to be interpreted as an endorsement.

I had to conclude that the then known facts about Kennedy were not adequate to make an unqualified judgment in his favor. I do feel that, as any man, he grew a great deal. After he became president I thought we really saw two Kennedys-a Kennedy the first two years and another Kennedy emerging in 1963. He was getting ready to throw off political considerations and see the real moral issues. Had President Kennedy lived, I would probably have endorsed him in 1964. But, back at that time, I concluded that there was something to be desired in both candidates. [Emphases added.]
Yea, Dr. King was a Republican.  Sure he was.  Perhaps in the alternate reality of right wing politics, but not in, you know, actual reality.

At best, Jack Kelly's guilty of a lie of omission (he knew that what Dr. King's niece said was inaccurate but went with it anyway, hiding behind some "according to..." weasel words) or simple bad reporting (he didn't bother to check the "fact" because it fit his story).  It's always the same question: Which is it, Jack?  Are you dishonest or incompetent?

On the other hand, the P-G should never have let this one off Jack's desk.  While I feel bad for whomever is entrusted with the impossible task of fact-checking Jack, sometimes the misinformation is just too much to allow.


EdHeath said...

Two things occur to me about this response to Kelly's column.

First, Ruth Ann Dailey likes to bring up that it was Republicans who provided the margin to pass the 1964 Civil Rights act, while Dixicrats voted against it. I am fine with that, in fact, it reminds us that up to the seventies the Republican Party was still the party of Lincoln. As I understand it, Martin Luther King's father was a Republican, as were many African American. It was only the pursuit of the "Southern Strategy" that changed the Republican in the at least covertly racist party that it is today. Considering the Republican party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six Presidential elections and is about to cause its second recession in five years, we might ask "how's the racism thing working out for you?".

The second thing that occurs to me is the great wisdom MLK showed in trying to stay non-partisan when neither party would entirely commit to civil rights. As I say, at the time the Republican party was still nominally the party of Lincoln, and might have emerged as the champions of civil rights.

Of course, what happened instead is that JFK and MLK were killed. Did anyone call for a national database of the mentally unstable back then?

Dayvoe said...

I remember reading an analysis of the "Republicans provided the margin in the Civil Rights Act" story a few years ago. When you factor in WHERE (from both parties) the support came from, it was the South that provided most of the resistance to that act - Republican and Democrat.

Everywhere else, if I recall correctly, the Democrats outpaced the Republicans, if only slightly.

And what happened AFTER the act passed? As LBJ said, the Democratic party lost the south for a generation (turns out more) and all those Southern Democrats became faithful Republicans.

EdHeath said...

Yep, I agree totally, which is why I said Dixiecrats voted it (Dixiecrat is actually a specific term I use a bit sloppily but I think descriptively). I agree with everything you said (although I believe the Republicans did actively try to recruit the disgruntled Southern Democrats).

I was born in the South, my family is all from the South and I will say that *other* people say that people in the South are among the nicest people you ever will meet. That said, there is a dark past in the South, some evil attitudes (which turned out to be shared by some in Boston when busing was mandated). The American people, which in this case is mostly to say Americans of caucasian descent, share this evil history, but Southerners fought once to keep slavery and have a history of fighting against civil rights.