(Memphis, TN) A Texas group has made billboards saying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, a statement similar to one made once by Republican congressional candidate Charlotte Bergmann in Memphis.
In both cases, billboards tell people that Dr. King was a Republican, and that they should vote Republican too.
The man behind the billboards in Texas, Claver Kamau-Imani, said his group whose site is RagingElephants.org, tries to court minority voters to the Republican Party.
“The use of Dr. King, because of him being an icon in the community, we feel would be most effective. That’s why we used it. We have the documentation to back the claims we’re making on the billboard,” Kamau-Imani says.
Others would question the claim. For example, PolitiFact rated Charlotte Bergmann’s billboard “false.”
Dr. King said himself that he never endorsed candidates.
In 2008, his son, Martin Luther King III, was quoted in an Associated Press article, saying, “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.”
Some Memphis voters have no problem with using Dr. King’s image.
One voter said, “If he was truly a registered Republican, then hey, use it.”
Felisa Cox, also voting early, said using his name and image is natural because he was such a public figure.
“That kind of goes along with the territory, so as long as it’s accurate and true, you know I don’t think there’s very much anybody can say about that,” Cox said.
But because finding the truth takes research, some said they know better than to vote one way just because of Dr. King’s face.
Erin Bodine said, “Fine, if you want to be advocating polices that are similar to the policies that Dr. King advocated, then maybe it seems appropriate to put your face up next to his. But again, I think it has to be based on substance. Not just saying, ‘hey look, my face is next to Dr. Martin Luther King’s. Therefore you should vote for me.’”
Bodine said she has no problem with people courting minority voters to the Republican Party, as long as the arguments are based on substance.