Friday, December 21, 2007

George Romney and Martin Luther King

SYNOPSIS:…at least four historical Books about MLK and 1960s politics state that King and Romney did March together...George Romney was a guest at King's funeral along with Governor and HUD Secretary Romney was a noted non-black Civil Rights leader of his day...George Romney was recognized along with King and RFK as one of four leaders popular among disadvantaged black youths in a 1967 below to photograph of MLK and Lenore Romney (Mitt's mother) below to photo of Romney being heckled by racist protesters in 1960s for HUD efforts... and most important, George Romney himself, led a march of 10,000 people through Detroit to protest after Bloody Sunday occurred in Selma, Alabama...see below

David S. Bernstein did a shabby and extremely slanted job researching and writing his article Was it All a Dream? which questions Mitt Romney’s assertion that his father, Governor George Romney marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dispensing with the issue of whether a teenage Romney ever actually saw his father marching arm-locked with King, Bernstein and the Phoenix have done an extremely one-sided job by insinuating that it is proven fact that the two never marched together and that Romney recently made up the story out of whole cloth. Either Bernstein failed to do basic research, or ignored the facts he found.

Bernstein's headline reads: “Mitt Romney claims that his father marched with MLK, but the record says otherwise”.

I ask, what record Mr. Bernstein? Where does your article show us one “record” that says Romney and King never marched together? Not having after hours access to libraries or archives, and just using google I have found three books, here, here, and here that state that the two did march together (and that's not counting David Broder's book, written four decades ago which would be number four!)

Unlike Bernstein and the Phoenix, I am not going to make grandiose assertions that a King-Romney march has been scientifically proven to have occurred, and it is evident that some writers have Romney marching on June 23, 1963, whereas others say that he issued a proclamation but avoided that particular March because it was held on his Sabbath. My point is that the whole thrust of Bernstein’s piece is to insinuate that Romney recently made the story up. That is hogwash. Take this extremely biased line: “Nor did Mitt Romney ever previously claim that this took place, until long after his father passed away in 1995 — not even when defending accusations of the Mormon church’s discriminatory past during his 1994 Senate campaign.” Basically, Bernstein is saying that if the story were true, then Romney would have bragged about it in the past. In other words, Bernstein is saying that Romney recently made the up the story to guild his "Faith in America" speech.

But the overwhelming weight of facts show that it is entirely reasonable for Romney to have believed his father did in fact march with King (and—barring proof otherwise, may have actually done so). Allow me to list just a few...I found today:

First, four published books by historians and reporters published long before 2007 say King and Romney marched together (see above). That would generally be good enough for a Presidential campaign to make a historical assertion without being accused of lying; second, Mitt’s older brother Scott Romney says he recalls his father saying he marched with King; third, George Romney himself led a Civil Rights march in Detroit to show solidarity with King after the defining Selma travesty (see here and here); fourth, Coretta Scott King's biography and other books indicate that George Romney, along with RFK, were guests at Martin Luther King's funeral (see here and here); fifth, I have not yet found a photo of George Romney and MLK together, but I did find this one of Mitt's mother, Lenore Romney with MLK; sixth, as HUD Secretary, Romney was a prime mover in making housing affordable for poor blacks (see here). In fact, when Romney sought to open white neighborhoods to blacks, like King before him he was heckled by racist protestors (check out the lower right-hand picture in this article, here); seventh, Romney visited Watts in 1967 (see here); eighth, Romney declared two days of statewide mourning for death of Viola Liuzzo during which time King went on Meet the Press to protest Viola Liuzzo’s murder by the KKK (see here and here); ninth, Coleman Young writes that Michigan blacks reached a Zenith when Romney was governor (see here) and another writer describes George Romney as a Civil Rights Republican (see here). Yet another historian says that Romney “believed that Civil Rights of black Americans, deserved the unwavering support of the Republican party…” (see here); tenth, disadvantaged black youths in a 1967 survey cited Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Nicholas Hood, Robert Kennedy and you guessed it...George Romney as their most popular leaders (see here).

I could go on, but my point is that Bernstein is insinuating that Romney is lying and is ignoring a huge amount of information that is easily obtainable on the internet or in a university library. If being a reporter were MY FULL TIME JOB, I would have already flown out to Lansing to see MSU's collection of 50,000 photographs, where (I have a hunch) the Mitt Romney campaign might find a lot more things to brag about. So the fact that Bernstein failed to even check those historical records readily available on the internet beats me!

That a 60 year old Romney (between the ages of 15-21 during King's marching years), familiar with all of the above background information, believes that his dad marched with MLK, is highly understandable. The record shows that his dad MARCHED FOR KING. I think Romney may get the last laugh on this one...

Basically, George Romney was one of the most progressive white leaders of his day. He probably belongs in the ranks of the Kennedy brothers, Everett Dirksen, LBJ and others.

In Sum: If in fact thorough research (which will take some time) shows that either 1) Romney and King did march together or 2)These historians and reporters were citing each other on a mistaken fact as to the June 23, 1963 march, the fact remains that George Romney did indeed lead a march for Civil Rights (whether or not King was with him at the time) and that George Romney was a Civil Rights leader in general and that he marched in solidarity with King in immediate response to Selma—the most defining Civil Rights episode of the era.

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