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Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day in that classic politician way: by misquoting the late civil rights leader.
Rep. King made news recently by asking in an interview with the New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” (He’s made the news not often enough for the innumerable racist things he’s said historically.) People were generally horrified; even conservative personalities like Ben Shapiro called for King to be censured by Congress.
Congress didn’t go that far (although some Democrats were ready to take it there), but they did remove King from all of his seats in the House Committees on Agriculture, Small Business, and the Judiciary. The House also passed a resolution titled, “Rejecting white nationalism and white supremacy,” which referenced King’s comments. It passed 424 to one, with the only nay vote from Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who said the resolution didn’t go far enough.
Fresh off a thorough rebuking for wondering why people would be offended by white supremacy, King took to Twitter, like so many public figures on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to share a quote from the reverend, honoring his memory. At least, that was the idea.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his all for all. I have long agreed with his speeches and writings. Today I think of this MLK quote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” May we renew ourselves in his teachings so that he can RIP.
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 21, 2019
The trouble is, the quote King shared isn’t actually a quote from MLK. It’s not even a quote from anyone. People on Twitter were having none of the self-identified nationalist’s fake MLK quotes.
— Robin Lundberg (@robinlundberg) January 21, 2019
— Gina Mackintosh (@ginammack) January 21, 2019
— nate bowling (@nate_bowling) January 21, 2019
— Racism WatchDog ⛄ (@RacismDog) January 21, 2019
So if the quote isn’t even misattributed to MLK, where did it come from? According to Snopes, it’s actually paraphrasing a section of a sermon MLK gave on March 8, 1965, the day after police brutally attacked unarmed marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The real quote is “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
Rep. King also might not be so quick to reference this sermon if he knew what came after the part he paraphrased. MLK continues: “So we’re going to stand up amid horses. We’re going to stand up right here in Alabama, amid the billy-clubs. We’re going to stand up right here in Alabama amid police dogs, if they have them. We’re going to stand up amid tear gas! We’re going to stand up amid anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free!”
H/T the Root
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently working out of St. Paul, Minnesota. They have bylines at The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, and Bullet Points. Follow them on Twitter @thedialogtree