The claim has been refuted by historians and members of King’s family.
Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images
Ben Carson on Monday said that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican, a claim that has been refuted by historians and members of King's family.
"The Republican party was established as an abolitionist party," Carson said on New Hampshire radio. "You look at some of the people who have belonged to the Republican party: you know, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, Jr. It's really quite an extensive list."
Family members and experts have said King was not a member of either major political party.
"It is disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican," King's son, Martin Luther King III, told the Associated Press in 2008. "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 that 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."
"It is simply incorrect to call Dr. King a Republican," Pulitzer Prize-winning King biographer David Garrow told Politifact in 2011.
It's not the first time members of the Republican party have claimed King as one of their own. In 2008, the National Black Republican Association put up billboards in Florida and South Carolina stating the claim and during the 2012 election a GOP candidate for Congress put up signs saying the same thing. "Most people don't talk about the fact that Martin Luther King was a Republican," said a Republican National committeewoman in 2013. Even King's niece once repeated the assertion.
When Politifact investigated the claim again in 2012, historian Kenneth Goings, noted that King's father was a Republican, but said he had seen no evidence that the renowned civil rights leader was one.
"I've not seen any evidence that MLK Jr. was a Republican but if he registered to vote it would have been as a Republican in Alabama simply because the Dems. would not allow black voters," Goings said. "Throughout the (Civil Rights) movement he worked with the northern Dem. Party...I wonder if somehow people have just confused Sr. and Jr. (maybe even on purpose)."
In the radio interview, Carson made the comment while answering a question about how to enhance the appeal of the GOP among those who have consistently voted for Democrats. In addition to arguing that people should look at those, such as King, whom he claimed were past members of the party, Carson said, "I would tell them to look at some of the big legislative victories in the last century. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, those were pushed through by Republicans against great Democratic opposition."
Those bills passed with bipartisan support and were signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat.
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