By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
As the official dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. approaches, liberals in the media are in damage control over a revelation about the civil rights leader from an unlikely source—Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK and Jackie Kennedy. Her new book, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, makes it abundantly clear that Jack and Bobby Kennedy, as well as Jackie, saw through the public façade of the Reverend King and knew him to be a proven liar about his communist connections and a scoundrel in terms of his personal life. Jackie called King a “phony” in the taped conversations that form the basis of the book.
This has created a dilemma for the media, who adore the Kennedys and King. So media figures such as Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and Diane Sawyer of ABC News have decided to blame the whole mess on former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. But the misdirection won’t work. The book stands on its own and constitutes a major indictment of a man considered a national icon.
On Monday night, Mitchell was on the NBC Nightly News covering the controversy by claiming that the “phony” comment was because of political games being played by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. In fact, the evidence shows that both JFK and his brother Bobby had themselves obtained and passed on information about King’s extramarital affairs and womanizing. It was information that had been obtained from wiretaps on King authorized by Bobby himself.
The book is based on recorded interviews conducted in 1964 by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. with Jacqueline Kennedy. It quotes Jackie as saying that JFK had told her “of a tape that the FBI had of Martin Luther King…how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy in the hotel, and everything.” Jackie said her response to this was that such conduct was “terrible” and that King was “such a phony.” Jackie adds, “Since then, Bobby’s told me of the tapes of these orgies they have and how Martin Luther King made fun of Jack’s funeral.”
Mitchell’s false narrative ignored how the Kennedy brothers, both anti-communist Democrats, were alarmed by King’s communist associations. She explained: “At the time, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was trying to incite divisions between the Kennedys and Dr. King, telling Bobby Kennedy that Dr. King was overheard on FBI wiretaps making crude comments about Jackie Kennedy kissing her husband’s coffin on the day of Jack’s funeral.”
But Mitchell’s talk of Hoover stirring up divisions was nonsense. Hoover targeted King because of high-level concern about his communist connections, with the information about his extramarital affairs coming out as a result of the surveillance of the civil rights leader. The book makes it clear that the report that Jackie said King was a “phony” was not based on something said about a coffin; it was based on revelations provided to Jackie Kennedy by her husband that King, a reverend who quoted the bible, was a notorious adulterer and partier. And Bobby Kennedy, according to the book, shared the disgust for King’s secret sexual perversions.
It appears that Mitchell either did not read the book or deliberately misrepresented what was in it. This is the true mark of a liberal journalist worried about besmirching the reputation of a liberal icon.
In the September 13 two-hour ABC special on the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes, “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words,” there is also an attempt to spin the damaging revelations about King and blame Hoover for them.
Diane Sawyer, anchor of the special program, said Hoover “had told the president that King was present at parties involving a lot of sex.” Sawyer said the reported comment about the funeral was “a malicious rumor” planted by Hoover with Bobby. Hence, Sawyer depicted the Kennedy brothers in an unflattering light as mere puppets of Hoover’s FBI. In fact, Hoover was doing their bidding.
Michael Beschloss, who wrote the introduction to the book, insisted on the air that “There is dispute on whether it’s Martin Luther King who’s on those FBI tapes or not. But Robert Kennedy thought it was.” It is apparent that Bobby had listened to some of the tapes, read the transcripts, or relied on summaries provided by the FBI. Equally important, Beschloss knows that King was wiretapped by the FBI (and that the wiretaps were approved by Bobby, the Attorney General) because of King’s communist connections and links to the Soviet-funded Communist Party USA. But this, too, is a taboo subject for the liberal media.
Rep. John Lewis appeared on the ABC program to blame J. Edgar Hoover for bad opinions of King, saying Hoover despised King and wanted to “destroy the man.” Caroline Kennedy was brought on to say that, despite her criticism of the civil rights leader in the book, her mother admired King.
These attempts at spin fly in the face of the evidence in the book and provided even by King’s former associates. For example, Ralph David Abernathy, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in his book, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, acknowledges King’s extramarital affairs.
On the NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell apparently felt obliged to report the explosive “phony” comment about King but decided to ignore the actual evidence in the book and blame it on Hoover. Such conduct is further evidence of the media’s blatant disregard of the facts in order to serve a political agenda. ABC News tried a variation of this strategy.
The New York Times at least got the basic facts right, noting that Jackie’s comment about King being a “phony” was based on “electronic eavesdropping” which found King “arranging encounters with women.”
But the reason for the wiretaps was not disclosed. And the fact that they were approved by Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General, was conveniently left out.
David J. Garrow explained some of the controversy in his 1981 book The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as a 2002 Atlantic magazine article based on it. He notes that Bobby authorized the FBI to begin wiretapping the telephones of King because he “believed that one of King’s closest advisers was a top-level member of the American Communist Party, and that King had repeatedly misled Administration officials about his ongoing close ties with the man.” The associate was Stanley Levison, who had been involved in Communist Party USA financial affairs and was helping to arrange funding of the party by Moscow.
Since the Kennedys were among a dwindling number of national Democrats who opposed international communism and wanted to see it defeated, these reports greatly concerned them.
But Levison wasn’t the only concern. Garrow writes, “Levison, the FBI told Kennedy and Marshall [Burke Marshall, the assistant attorney general for civil rights], had recently installed as head of the SCLC’s small New York office a young African-American man named Jack O’Dell, whose publicly documented record of affiliation with the CPUSA had drawn the attention of hostile congressional committees just a few years earlier. Kennedy’s inner circle resolved that every Administration aide acquainted with King would warn him fervently but vaguely about the political danger of continuing his association with Levison and O’Dell. King politely accepted and then privately dismissed warning after warning.” (O’Dell would later go to work for King associate Jesse Jackson).
Hence, King was deceiving the Kennedys, his allies in the civil rights struggle.
In his book, Garrow quoted Marshall as saying that King’s deception on this matter was important and that the wiretaps were therefore justified. “I mean,” said Marshall, “if you accept the concept of national security, if you accept the concept that there is a Soviet Communist apparatus and it is trying to interfere with things here—which you have to accept—and that there’s a national security issue and that taps are justified in that area. I don’t know what could be more important than having the kind of Communist that this man was claimed to be by the Bureau directly influencing Dr. King.”
The communists were manipulating the civil rights movement in directions that benefited them, such as by influencing King to be critical of the war against communism in Vietnam and the system of free enterprise capitalism in the U.S.
Garrow, who was sympathetic to King and critical of the FBI, explained, “Hence the primary reason behind the decision to wiretap Dr. King was, for Robert Kennedy and Burke Marshall, just as it was for the FBI, honestly held fears about what Stanley Levison represented and why Martin Luther King was remaining in contact with him despite numerous warnings not to and King’s own promise that he would end the relationship.”
This information, which has long been on the public record, provides a much-needed perspective on the wiretap controversy. Authorized for the purpose of documenting King’s communist connections, the surveillance turned up evidence of his adultery, which contradicted his stance as a minister of God preaching virtue in public life. But viewers of Andrea Mitchell’s report about Jackie Kennedy calling King a “phony” had no way, based on her broadcast, to understand what the controversy was really all about. Instead, they came away thinking the comment was based on some crazy scheme cooked up by Hoover.
It is truly bizarre that Mitchell would so brazenly lie about the matter when the daughter of JFK and Jackie had put it in her book for all to read and see.
But the liberal media are not alone in obscuring the facts. On the Fox News Channel, Bill O’Reilly blamed Hoover for the wiretaps. “He felt that the doctor was a communist,” O’Reilly said, ignoring the evidence of King’s communist associates and Bobby Kennedy’s role in approving the surveillance. His guest on the program was left-wing historian Kenneth C. Davis, who noted that the Kennedys were “very anti-communist.” Pressed on what was in the tapes, Davis said it apparently had to do with arranging a party with prostitutes. “We know that that’s part of the Martin Luther King legacy,” Davis acknowledged. But O’Reilly would have none of it. “Dr. King was a great man,” he countered, dismissing what the “gossip mongers” say, and “we don’t want to besmirch him in any way, shape or form.” Later, O’Reilly reiterated, “In totality, believe me, ladies and gentlemen, Dr. King was a great man.”
One reason for the inability to face facts could be that President Obama is scheduled to preside over the official unveiling of the King memorial in Washington, D.C. on October 16, an event that will lead to tons of coverage about King and his legacy. Telling the truth about King, even though Caroline Kennedy has opened up this can of worms, could ruin journalism careers. Conservative media figures could find themselves accused of racism for talking about the black civil rights leader’s personal indiscretions and far-left associations.
The MLK memorial is already mired in controversy because $10 million in taxpayer funds (out of the $120 million cost) and four acres of federal land were donated for a 30-foot tall socialist-type statue of King made in communist China by a Chinese artist with Chinese granite. It would appear that another scandal over King himself has to be avoided so the event can go forward without further embarrassment.
One can be sure that the Mitchell method of slanting the news will be in full swing leading up to the King memorial dedication, and Obama and his media allies will strive to make sure that any mention of King’s communist connections and adultery is stricken from the public record.