Controversial Ad Links MLK, GOP
Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), who is running for the U.S. Senate, denounced the King ad, and Donald E. Scoggins, president of Republicans for Black Empowerment and a former member of the association, said it was a terrible idea.
Black Republicans railed against the radio ads, with the sharpest criticism coming from former members of the black Republican association.
"The vast majority of black Republicans I know would not have approved of the ad," Scoggins said.
In the ad, a black woman says, "Dr. King was a real man," and a second one responds, "You know he was a Republican."
"Dr. King, a Republican?"
The women go on to say that Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan, lumping together those in the South with others in the North who reached out to African Americans with New Deal programs and by desegregating the armed forces.
The backlash was so fierce that Rice stopped answering telephone calls. "We anticipated some controversy, but my goodness, we struck a nerve," she said in an interview from Sarasota, Fla.
"I absolutely do not regret the ads," said Rice, 62, a native of Atlanta, King's hometown. He "absolutely was a Republican," she insisted. "We were all Republicans in those days. The Democrats were training fire hoses on us, siccing dogs on us."
It is true that Southern Democrats, many of whom called themselves "Dixiecrats," blocked the social and political progress of black Southerners for decades. Among them was Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), a former local leader in the Ku Klux Klan. Byrd has said he regrets his affiliation.
In 1960, King was arrested for trespassing during a sit-in and held in Georgia's Reidsville prison. Fearing for his son's life, Martin Luther King Sr. appealed to presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to secure his release.
When King was freed, his father vowed to deliver 10 million votes to the Democrat, even though Kennedy was only a reluctant supporter of civil rights. That began four decades of black people voting for liberals.
The younger King voted for Kennedy, and for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson four years later. In that election, King publicly denounced the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater.
Today, the vast majority of black voters are Democrats, including former ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young and former presidential hopeful Jesse L. Jackson, two former King aides.
That is why the ad was "a joke," said Christopher Arps, a former spokesman for Rice and the association. "Anyone with any sense knows that most black people were Republican at one time. But it's a far stretch to think that in the '60s Martin Luther King was a Republican."
Arps and Scoggins resigned from the association board last year when they disagreed with Rice on a separate issue. She wanted to support President Bush when he came under fire for his administration's slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
"In terms of what we're trying to do, encourage more blacks to look at the Republican Party, I didn't think we could do that in an in-your-face-type way," Scoggins said. "There were bodies floating in the street." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/...