A Texas group has begun putting up billboards saying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican in the hopes that passersby would follow suit and vote Republican as well.
Claver Kamau-Imani, who heads the Houston-based website, RagingElephants.org, says he’s trying 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,” he said. “We have the documentation to back the claims we’re making on the billboard.”
But civil rights leader Peter Johnson blasted what he said was a blatant misrepresentation.
“Using his image is one thing, exploiting his legacy is another,” he told a local Texas TV station. “To distort his legacy, it’s sacred to some of us. We know the suffering and sacrifice that was made.”
PolitiFact Texas debunked Kamau-Imani’s assertion back in January, well before he put a message on the billboard. King wasn’t a Democrat either, but his political views aligned much more closely with that party than with the GOP, who were quickly replacing Southern Democrats as the main defenders of the status quo.
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.”
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.