King said George Romney didn't march

But, as usual, the truth wasn't good enough for Mitt
December 21, 2007 1:53:54 PM

Click the image to read the Holland Evening Sentinel's account of Detroit's civil-rights demonstration from June 1963.

Was it all a dream? EXCLUSIVE: Mitt Romney claims that his father marched with MLK, but the record says otherwise. By David S. Bernstein
On Sunday, June 23, 1963, 125,000 people marched down Detroit's Woodward Avenue to the Civic Center, in what was described at the time as the largest civil-rights demonstration in the nation's history. According to the next day's account in the Holland Evening Sentinel , the crowd at the Center "lustily booed," when representatives of Governor George W. Romney read a proclamation declaring "Freedom March Day in Michigan."

But Martin Luther King Jr. didn't fault Romney for his absence, which the governor ascribed to his policy against public appearances on the Sabbath. "At a news conference following the march . . . [King] refused to criticize Romney for not attending the demonstration," the Sentinel reported.

"Issuing the proclamation, and sending his personal representatives, was probably more than 49 other governors would have been willing to do at that time," says Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University. "It took considerable courage."

Romney would go much further, participating in a small demonstration in Grosse Pointe later that week; refusing to endorse Barry Goldwater in 1964, largely because of Goldwater's vote against the Civil Rights Act; and, in 1965, marching in Detroit to protest the police actions in Selma, Alabama.

These acts placed him at odds with his political party and with his church leadership. They are the types of actions, in defense of principles and at the risk of ambitions, that appear to be lacking in Romney's son — a failing that leads him, repeatedly, into false or exaggerated claims such as the one that has him in trouble this week.

Mitt Romney never questioned or decried the Mormon Church's doctrine forbidding black priests, which continued until 1978, at which time Romney was 31 years old, a vice president at Bain & Company, and the father of four.

So, for evidence of a principled stand he never took, Romney appropriated his father's principles. But, unlike King himself, Romney was not satisfied with what George Romney actually did. He inflated it, placing his father into the iconic position of marching alongside the civil rights leader.

He didn't just use imprecise language, as his campaign is now spinning it. His language — in at least three different nationally televised instances, including this past Sunday's Meet the Press with Tim Russert  — was precise enough: he had direct, personal first-hand knowledge that his father had marched with Dr. King.

The precision, in fact, is the problem: the sincerity with which he offered the memory, the emotion that led his eyes to well up. This was not a man simply passing along something he had once come across in a David Broder book.

And yesterday, after being called on the issue, he offered more specifics. He told reporters in Iowa that he recalled his father changing his mind, and deciding to march even though it was Sunday.

It wasn't the first time Romney has abused a parental memory. Running for Senate in Massachusetts, in 1994, and trying to establish pro-choice credibility that he had done nothing to earn, Romney told stories about his mother, Lenore Romney, running on a strong pro-choice platform in her own unsuccessful bid for public office in 1970. Those tales were debunked by Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara.

Then, as now, Romney tried to buttress his statement with weak documentation at odds with the precision of the claim: in that case, Romney provided the Globe with a vaguely-worded campaign document that could be read as supporting the pre-Roe v Wade status quo, in which abortion was a felony in Michigan. ''I support and recognize the need for more liberal abortion rights while reaffirming the legal and medical measures needed to protect the unborn and pregnant woman [sic]," the document read.

Again, at that time, Romney did not just pass along falsehood as fact. He sold it as personal truth, speaking of the painful memories of a close relative's death, from complications of an illegal abortion.

Romney was telling that tale, of course, when it was politically expedient to be pro-choice. Today, needing to be pro-life, he has a new, highly personal and emotional tale of personal conversion after a doctor showed him how stem cells are handled in research — another specific but uncorroborated story, about which even the doctor involved has expressed skepticism.

Romney once favored gun control; now, needing gun-rights voters, he has falsely claimed to be a "lifelong hunter" and to have been endorsed in 2002 by the National Rifle Association – an endorsement the NRA never gave him. Needing to establish anti-illegal-immigrant credentials, he boasts of an attitude that he never displayed while governor — when he expressed no concern over several "sanctuary cities" in the state — until the very end of his term, when he had turned his attention to the Republican Presidential nomination.

This week, he finds the need to attack Mike Huckabee on crime, and so Romney has re-invented his record there, falsely claiming, in a new ad, to have cracked down on methamphetamine.

It is not just that these are untruths. They are the actions of a man desperate to cater to the whims of his audience. What they want, he must appear to be.

This is the opposite of leadership — the opposite of the actions taken by his father in the 1960s.

It should be recalled that the infamous "brainwashed" comment that sunk George Romney's 1968 Presidential candidate, cost him not merely because of the choice of words, but for the idea he was expressing: that what the generals were telling America about how the war was going in Vietnam was untrue.

That was heresy among pro-war Republicans, who quickly turned on Romney.

Today, Mitt Romney is attacking Huckabee for daring to criticize George W. Bush's conduct of the Iraq War, in a recent Foreign Affairs article. Romney, of course, has refused to speak ill of Bush — that would hurt him among the Republicans he is courting. His father, one suspects, would be disappointed.


Mitt cannot run on his father's record. Regardless of what his father did or did not do, the larger question is: What did Mitt do? The LDS church maintained a racist policy of denying full membership to blacks until 1978. The text of the Book of Mormon and other Mormon scripture equate righteousness with skin color. Mormon doctrine still teaches that black skin and features are the “curse of Cain”. Romney was 31 years old at the time the Church lifted the ban which means that for a significant portion of his adult life he accepted his church’s teaching that blacks are inherently inferior. Does he still believe that he is more "valiant" than blacks by virtue of being born white? If he didn't believe that people of color were inferior during his adult life before the ban was lifted, why did he remain a member – tacitly supporting the ban and its doctrinal underpinnings? Did he counsel members to not accept this church teaching when he was a church missionary, bishop or stake president? He admitted in NY Times interview that he never questioned or protested this racist doctrine and the policy it supported. Why not? While the church has changed its policy of prohibiting blacks from holding its priesthood, it has never renounced the doctrine that led to the ban in the first place; never disavowed or removed from the church cannon the scripture that the doctrine is based upon; never renounced or apologized for racist statements made by its leaders. While nearly 30 years have passed since the ban was lifted, not a single black face appears in the upper echelons of Mormon church leadership.

POSTED BY caedmon AT 12/22/07 12:33 AM
Retraction and apology please. Your article has been proven false by numerous eye-witnesses. Will you recant your story with the same zeal that you tried to slime Romney? Of course not, pathetic. // Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window. “I’m just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn’t happen,” Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. “The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.”

POSTED BY gmcflugalson AT 12/22/07 5:09 AM
Mitt Romeny may have gotten this story wrong but when he wins the nomination is shouldnt hurt him. After all, he will be facing the Clinton's who have also lied about the civil rights movement. At Rosa Park's funeral Bill Clinton spoke about how he would sit at the back of the city bus, to show support for the movement. The audience roared in approval but he made it up, there was no city bus system at all. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton has lied about where her daughter was on sept 11th,the origin of her name,what she did in school etc.. Where is the media attention to Clinton exagerations and out right lies.

POSTED BY joshua fox AT 12/22/07 9:20 AM
Romney saw his father's example, if not his father's actual march, which is no longer in question. George Romney did march with Martin Luther King, and supported him when few government leaders would. " Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window. With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade. “They were hand in hand,” recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. “They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else’s.”… Another witness, Ashby Richardson, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account. “I’m just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn’t happen,” Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. “The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.”

POSTED BY jmm36 AT 12/22/07 10:11 AM
// "When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King marched in Detroit three years ago, Romney marched with him. He is proud that he helped write a state constitution that has the most comprehensive civil-rights guarantees in the nation, including open occupancy in housing." DAVID S. BERNSTEIN claim that there is no public record that George Romney ever claimed he marched with King is patently false. The Harper's Magazine article from 1967 proves it. It was brought to his attention yesterday and he still has not retracted. Poor form.

POSTED BY anonymousguy AT 12/22/07 2:22 PM

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