Romney fields questions on King
Campaign says claim not literal
December 20, 2007
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he watched his father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, in a 1960s civil rights march in Michigan with Martin Luther King Jr.
On Wednesday, Romney's campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative."He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
The campaign was responding to questions raised by the Free Press and other media after a Boston publication challenged the accuracy of Mitt Romney's account.
In a major speech on faith and politics earlier this month in Texas, Mitt Romney said: "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King."
He made a similar statement Sunday during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." He said, "You can see what I believed and what my family believed by looking at our lives. My dad marched with Martin Luther King. My mom was a tireless crusader for civil rights."
Romney's campaign cited various historical articles, as well as a 1967 book written by Stephen Hess and Washington Post political columnist David Broder, as confirmation that George Romney marched with King in Grosse Pointe in 1963.
"He has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb," Hess and Broder wrote in "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP."
Free Press archives, however, showed no record of King marching in Grosse Pointe in 1963 or of then-Gov. Romney taking part in King's historic march down Woodward Avenue in June of that year.
George Romney told the Free Press at the time that he didn't take part because it was on a Sunday and he avoided public appearances on the Sabbath because of his religion.
Romney did participate in a civil rights march protesting housing bias in Grosse Pointe just six days after the King march. According to the Free Press account, however, King was not there.
Broder could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
The Boston Phoenix reported Wednesday it could find no evidence that Romney and King ever marched together.
Mitt Romney's older brother, Detroit attorney Scott Romney, said he recalls his father telling him the elder Romney marched with King, possibly in 1963, but he could not remember exactly when the event took place.
Fehrnstrom called the Romney brothers' recollection and the historical materials a "pretty convincing case that George Romney did march with Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders in Michigan."
The governor's record was one of supporting civil rights. He helped create the state's first civil rights commission and marched at the head of a protest parade in Detroit days after violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
Mitt Romney's campaign planned today to further research George Romney's papers for evidence of his march with King.
Free Press Library Director Alice Pepper contributed to this report.
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