A new portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. by one of his biographers paints him as a rape accomplice and abuser of women

May 30, 2019 • 10:35 am

Along with Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my heroes. Both men, using their labor, their writing, their dedication, and especially their devotion to nonviolent civil disobedience, effected enormous social change. Gandhi helped get the British to “quit India”; King helped lead the civil rights struggles of the sixties that ended legal segregation. (King was of course influenced by Gandhi.)

And yes, both men were imperfect. Gandhi had some bizarre ideas about sex, neglected his wife, and thought India could support itself from the handloom industry. We all know of King’s marital infidelities, which were taped by the nefarious J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, with the recordings sent to King’s wife Coretta Scott King.

But not until now has the full extent of King’s serial infidelities become clear, and—far worse—his usage of woman as sexual objects and, worst of all, at least one case of rape which he egged on. Four days ago the Times of London published excerpts of an upcoming article by King’s biographer, but I haven’t read the article below because it’s behind a paywall.

The Times piece presages an article by  David Garrow, who is far from being a detractor of King. Garrow is a distinguished historian of both King and the civil rights movement, and here are his bona fides from Wikipedia:

He wrote the book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1986), which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. He also wrote Liberty and Sexuality (1994), a history of the legal struggles over abortion and reproductive rights in the U.S. prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (2017), and other works.

Garrow writes frequently on the history of the United States Supreme Court and the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and regularly contributes articles on these subjects to non-academic publications including The New York TimesThe NationThe Financial Times, and The New Republic.

Garrow was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated magna cum laude from Wesleyan University in 1975 before receiving his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1981.

Garrow served as a senior adviser for Eyes on the Prize, the award-winning PBS television history of the Civil Rights Movement covering the years 1954–1965. He has taught at Duke University (Instructor of History; 1978–1979), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Assistant Professor of History; 1980–1984), the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center (Associate and full Professor of History; 1984–1991), The Cooper Union (Visiting Distinguished Professor of History; 1992–1993), the College of William and Mary (James Pinckney Harrison Visiting Professor of History; 1994–1995), American University (Distinguished Historian in Residence; 1995–1996) and the Emory University School of Law (Presidential Distinguished Professor; 1997–2005). From 2005 to 2011, Garrow was a senior research fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge. From 2011 until 2018 he served as Professor of Law and History and John E. Murray Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

I read Bearing the Cross many years ago, and loved it; it well deserved the Pulitzer, and it, too, was no hit job on King.  It did, as I recall, mention King’s infidelities, but we knew of them already, and they seemed limited, appearing to be a form of consensual adulterous sex that, while casting him as a bit of a hypocrite, didn’t seem to greatly tarnish his image as a civil rights leader.

But Garrow has now spent many hours listening to newly released FBI tapes and documents bearing on King’s life, and has a very dark tale to tell. Rod Dreher published some excerpts in The American Conservative last week (click on screenshot below), but I wanted to hold off until Garrow’s own article came out. You can read Dreher’s excerpts by clicking on the screenshot below, but there’s no substitute for the Standpoint piece below that, which was apparently rejected by several venues. As the American Spectator notes:

The UK’s Guardian commissioned David Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Martin Luther King, to write an article detailing his shocking discoveries about the civil rights leader’s behind-closed-doors behavior, before pulling out with a kill fee. “Garrow had similar experiences with the Atlantic magazine and with the Washington Post — both of which he had written for before,” Michael Mosbacher writes at Standpoint, which publishes the controversial article on Thursday. “Conservative magazines in the US also felt the story was too risky to run. The same response came from a web magazine whose raison d’être is to fight for free speech. When Standpoint decided to publish it, the longest essay we have ever run, I approached a prominent British historian to write an article putting the revelations into context. The response: ‘No way! I’ll try to think of someone else who has the guts to drink from that particular poisoned chalice.’”

How can such a story be too risky to run in venues that wrote piece after piece about Harvey Weinstein? Well, we know: King is an American hero. But he misused his power just as Harvey Weinstein did. At a time when the personal lives of historical figures are being reassessed, King seemed untouchable, and shame on The Guardian, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post for not running this story: a story put together by King’s distinguished biographer.

Well, Garrow’s article was published only three hours ago in the UK magazine Standpoint, which is free online (click on screenshot):

It’s horrible—King’s behavior, that is. I will give only a few excerpts:

Newly-released documents reveal the full extent of the FBI’s surveillance of the civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King in the mid-1960s. They expose in graphic detail the FBI’s intense focus on King’s extensive extramarital sexual relationships with dozens of women, and also his presence in a Washington hotel room when a friend, a Baptist minister, allegedly raped one of his “parishioners”, while King “looked on, laughed and offered advice”. The FBI’s tape recording of that criminal assault still exists today, resting under court seal in a National Archives vault.

The FBI, of course, loved this stuff, and they come off as nefarious and disgusting. But we knew that:

The FBI documents also reveal how its Director, J. Edgar Hoover, authorised top Bureau officials to send Dr King a tape-recording of his sexual activities along with an anonymous message encouraging him to take his own life.

The complete transcripts and surviving recordings are not due to be released until 2027 but when they are made fully available a painful historical reckoning concerning King’s personal conduct seems inevitable.

This information comes from transmitters planted in King’s hotel rooms by the FBI:

Staying in one of the two targeted rooms was King’s friend Logan Kearse, the pastor of Baltimore’s Cornerstone Baptist Church and, like King, the holder of a PhD from the Boston University School of Theology. Kearse “had brought to Washington several women ‘parishioners’ of his church”, a newly-released summary document from Sullivan’s personal file on King relates, and Kearse invited King and his friends to come and meet the women. “The group met in his room and discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural or unnatural sex acts. When one of the women protested that she did not approve of this, the Baptist minister immediately and forcibly raped her,” the typed summary states, parenthetically citing a specific FBI document (100-3-116-762) as its source. “King looked on, laughed and offered advice,” Sullivan or one of his deputies then added in handwriting.

And shades of Donald Trump:

At the Willard Hotel, King and his friends’ activities resumed the following evening as approximately 12 individuals “participated in a sex orgy” which the prudish Sullivan felt included “acts of degeneracy and depravity . . . When one of the women shied away from engaging in an unnatural act, King and several of the men discussed how she was to be taught and initiated in this respect. King told her that to perform such an act would help your soul.” Sometime later, in language that would reflect just how narrow Sullivan’s mindset was, “King announced that he preferred to perform unnatural acts on women and that he had started the ‘International Association for the Advancement of Pussy Eaters’.” Anyone familiar with King’s often-bawdy sense of humour would not doubt that quotation.

There is intimation of tax fraud, and evidence of prostitution. This is the last excerpt I can put up because reading them almost makes me weep. And believe me, there are a lot more such stories.

[FBI] Agent William H. Been had heard rumours that King had patronised a local prostitute and decided that given King’s “position as a God-fearing man of the cloth . . . perhaps a casual inquiry made to the prostitute in question might shed an interesting side light to King’s extra-curricular activities”. At 3 a.m. on May 16 Been met Gail LaRue, a married 28-year-old who had left four children from a prior marriage in Sheridan, Wyoming. Gail explained that at 2 a.m. on April 27, a hotel bellman had asked her to go to the New Frontier Hotel and see the well-known black gospel musician Clara Ward, whose Clara Ward Singers were performing there. In the lobby, Ward handed Gail $100 and told her: “I have a couple of friends in town that would like to meet you and have you take care of them.” Ward said “she was paying Gail . . . because these two men did not believe in paying a girl for her service and for Gail to keep quiet about receiving any money.”

Clara took Gail to the bar at the Sands Hotel and made a call on the house phone. Martin Luther King then appeared in the bar and took both women to his room, where all three began drinking. King phoned one of his colleagues and told him to “get your damned ass down here because I have a beautiful white broad here”. Then “both the Rev King and Clara Ward stripped naked and told Gail to do the same.” With Gail seated in a chair, “King went down on his knees and started nibbling on her right breast, while Clara Ward did the same with her left breast. Gail then stated, ‘I guess the Reverend got tired of that and put his head down between my legs and started nibbling on “that”.’ After a while he got up and told Clara Ward to try some of it, so Clara went down on Gail for a while. Gail stated, ‘I think Clara Ward is queer’.”

Then King had intercourse with Gail while Clara watched. “After what Gail stated seemed like hours, King rolled off and had another drink, then climbed back on for a second go around.” After King paused again, his friend showed up, had a drink, and had intercourse with Gail “while both Clara Ward and the Rev King watched the action from a close-by position”, with Clara sometimes stroking Gail as well. “Gail then stated that she was getting scared as they were pretty drunk and all using filthy language and at last she told Clara Ward she would have to go.” Clara informed King, who “then whispered in Gail’s ear, ‘I would like to try you sometime again if I could get you away from Clara’.”

Here is Garrow’s conclusion:

King’s far-from monogamous lifestyle, like his binge-drinking, may fit albeit uncomfortably within his existing life story, but the suggestion—actually more than one—that he either actively tolerated or personally employed violence against any woman, even while drunk, poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.

There’s no doubt that the FBI comes off badly, with its obsession about King and his sex life and his attempts to get him to kill himself, but we’ve long known that J. Edgar Hoover was a reprehensible human being: an arrogant dictator who wielded absolute power for decades, using it to destroy whom he considered the enemies of America.

The big question, of course, is not whether King was a bad person: he clearly was a horrible person in many ways, even a criminal, but also did enormous good in advancing civil rights. He was a mixed person, but far more mixed than any of us suspected or that any of us would like.

What happens now? Perhaps the Left will treat him differently from, say Harvey Weinstein, because King was such a force for good, but he did exactly what Weinstein did: used his power to seduce, degrade, and even rape women. Garrow is clearly disturbed as well. But will statues of King be taken down now? If not, why not?

What we face is a need to revise our assessment of a man now dead, not of his leadership of the civil rights movement. I weep for his victims, and I weep for his family, now subject to a revelation that he was an odious sexual predator. I cannot see overlooking the latter because of the good he did. If what Garrow wrote is true—and I have every expectation that it is—it will be interesting to see what happens now. Nobody can accuse Garrow of confecting rumors to destroy King’s reputation.

Should Garrow have ignored this story? No, of course not: in fact, he is the best person to tell it. And he has an obligation, as King’s biographer, to paint a full picture of the man.  How sad that this picture is now marred in a way most of us never suspected. As someone said, “We live in interesting times,” but in this case I wish the times weren’t so interesting—that King was as upright a man in private as he was in public. But he was human, with all of our flaws, and some of his flaws are both reprehensible and criminal. He’ll never look the same to anyone, including admirers like me.

I am eager to hear readers’ take on this: how do you think we should look at King now?

h/t: cesar

129 thoughts on “A new portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. by one of his biographers paints him as a rape accomplice and abuser of women

  1. We know there are no perfect human beings. I think the best lesson from this is that we should not idolize people, but instead their ideas when they are warranted.

    But what to do with the legacy of Dr. King? It seems like almost every town has a MLK Boulevard, at the very least. Should all those roads be re-named? I don’t think so, and maybe it is time to quit pulling down statues all around. Instead let them remain and be reminders of how times and thinking can change, and that today’s heroes may turn out to be tomorrow’s goats.

    1. Exactly, littleboybrew. I venture to guess that there’s not a single historical figure that didn’t take advantage of his position to have as much sex as possible. Indeed, that may the reason most men want the “alpha” position in the first place.

      However, the ideas are more important than the person (within reason). Ditto for musicians: I don’t care if the composer was a terrible human being; it’s the music that counts.

      1. You are perfectly right. Laura Betzig wrote a brilliant little book about that tendency: “Despotism and Differential Reproduction: A Darwinian View of History”.

  2. It is hard to believe. My initial emotional response is to hope that someone shows that the FBI somehow fabricated the tapes specifically to destroy King.

    It is just so hard to accept that such a hero could also be such a monster.

    1. Do you mean you find it difficult to believe it’s true or that you do believe it’s true and are hurt by that

      The Stranglers had it right a few decades ago…

      1. As did New Model Army

        They started work this morning down at city square
        They’re pulling down the statues of our great grandfather’s hero
        The new books said he wasn’t such a great man after all
        And anyway remember that the times they are a-changing
        Pull it down, drag it down
        Till there’s nothing to look up to
        But the brand names on the posters all around

      2. I mean it is difficult to believe in the same sense that it can be difficult to believe it when you hear that someone has suddenly died. The evidence must be there, so you know it must be true, but your mind irrationally keeps hoping for some other explanation.

  3. I think you put it well, a ‘mixed’ man. A great man, but with some sinister skeletons in his cupboard (or mirroring: an evil man with some definite greatness) . Reminds me of Mr Krauss, or -to a lesser degree- of Mr Einstein.

  4. Never confuse the messenger with the message.

    We know that Gandhi was … dubious shall we say, in his time in South Africa – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-34265882

    I would bet a LOT of powerful men who are historical figures with admirable qualities, also were horrible in their treatment of women.

    Can we appreciate for example, the art of Eric Gill, knowing he was a paedophile & an incestuous one at that?

    1. Not to mention Gandhi’s “Quit India” movement could more accurately be titled the “Give India Back To The Brahmins” movement.

      (Has any research been done on what Dalits thought at the time or since?)

      1. I don’t think that the British rule was synonymous with utopia. Additionally, Pandit Nehru (who was favoured by Mahatma Gandhi) invited Dr Ambedkar to join the cabinet despite his disagreements with Mahatma Gandhi. It was also Mahatma Gandhi who called the so-called untouchables “Harijans” (people of God).

    1. Eish, Blue, as always I find it difficult to decipher what you’re really trying to convey (which admittedly generally is worthwhile when succeeding).

      1. Blue’s orthography tends to be a bit, shall we say, idiosyncratic. But her point is generally well worth the decoding effort. 🙂

  5. I must say that I already knew some of this from many years ago while still in school. I happened to take some law classes in 72 or 73 and the teacher was a lawyer who had been an FBI agent earlier (before law school). He made comments about King based on some of the surveillance the FBI did on King. Certainly he did not go into great detail on this but he made it very clear that King was one very strange guy. I think that many others knew some of this as well, from rumors and talk that came out concerning the FBI. But I was getting it from one who knew and had direct knowledge of this.

    1. Well, I guess it is well-known he was a ‘womaniser’, but rape is a different matter, and new to me.

      1. He was a deeply flawed person, there is no doubt about that. As I recall so many years ago, the word rape was not part of the information. Orgies and drunken wild parties was part of the story. I don’t think rape technically could be used other than an opinion. He was never arrested or convicted of it.

  6. This is a very painful report, assuming it is true, which for the moment at least, I will accept. At the Bulwark site (a conservative site run by a never Trumper, Charles Sykes) is a post by historian Ron Radosh, who started out as an American Communist and over the years drifted to the right. Here is what he says and what I can’t disagree with:

    King was a man who risked his own life by practicing non-violence and who publicly rejected the two primary alternatives to the civil rights movement: black nationalism and racial separatism. He rejected the use of guns in the fight against the oppressors, especially the police. Because of this, the more radical groups were not fond of King and called him the Uncle Tom of the movement.
    Let me not mince words. King’s behavior toward women should not be buried or excused. They should be condemned.

    But does acknowledging these truths mean that we can no longer recognize King’s accomplishments as a civil rights leader? Does it mean we have to ignore what he said in his powerful sermons and writings? Does it diminish his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”? It was there that King wrote that citizens had “not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws,” and at the same time “to disobey unjust laws.”
    Remember, King led an entire community to risk everything on behalf of freedom, fighting off Bull Connor’s police dogs and fire hoses as they were unleashed on unarmed citizens protesting for their rights as American citizens.

    Our leaders are human. King was deeply flawed in his view of women and his sexual proclivities. It is obvious, reading Garrow’s quotation from King’s sermon on March 3, 1968, that he was alluding to himself when he said “There is a schizophrenia . . . going on in all of us. There are times that all of us know somehow that there is a Mr. Hyde and a Dr. Jekyll in us.” God, King said, “does not judge us by the separate incidents or the separate mistakes that we make, but by the total bent of our lives.”

    The word “mistake” does not begin to cover King’s behavior toward women. But King is yet another reminder that good men can do bad things, and even bad men can sometimes accomplish great goods. How do we balance those ledgers in a final accounting? It’s hard. It’s messy. And there are no neat or obvious answers.



    King is an example of how some people are morally reprehensible in their private lives, but do good things publicly. Think of JFK and Bill Clinton. Then there are those morally reprehensible privately and publicly. Donald Trump will be hard to match in this regard. From the point of view of history, people need to be judged by their public acts. After all, that is what affects millions. People who work in the public sphere should never be viewed as saints. This will prevent a lot of disappointment. Judge them by their public acts. Let their families and possibly the criminal justice system deal with their private transgressions. As Radosh points out, there are no easy answers. But this is mine.

    1. Very well said.

      And Jerry has treated what is a very painful topic excellently too. (I also have similar feelings to Jerry in relation to Ghandi. He did a lot I personally admire him for, but it’s a good thing for India that all his ideas didn’t make it into reality.)

      It’s clear, given the bona fides of the writer, that this information about King is reality. Thus, we now know that where women were concerned, he was a monster.

      Previously, I think most people knew he was an adulterous womanizer. (A lot of people also thought that wasn’t really a big deal, although I suspect a majority of those same people would have felt differently if King was a woman.) Now we know differently. We have to face up to that. But, it doesn’t change the good he did. The US would be a different place, and a lesser place, if King had not done what he did in relation to Civil Rights.

      1. ” … … what he did in relation to Civil Rights ” for Any, and with massive numbers of complicit individuals, determinedly and gravely stopped, Ms Hastie, at the 47% of humanity, any color of / any class of, which are men and boys. A just definition of one’s civil rights in re human beings is not supportive of (t)his purposeful exclusion of 53% of the entire World.


        1. I’m not trying to justify what he did in any way Blue. On the whole, I stand with your position. I’m only saying he did some good things and the fact it appears he was a monster doesn’t change the good stuff he did

          Like others, I also remember what you wrote in your comment in that previous post. It was also very well said and I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve always said something similar too. e.g. As I said in a recent post, whatever the issue, it appears to me that women’s rights have to take second place. We’re always expected to just suck it up. Whatever demographic is suffering, their issues are always put before those of women. And if the demographic includes women and girls, they will take second place to the needs of men and boys.

          Despite the strides that have been made in women’s rights over my lifetime, we are nowhere near equal to men even in countries like NZ. For example, we got the vote in 1893 but we’re only onto our third female PM and we’ve only reached 41% women MPs, We’ve been (on average) better educated than men for over a century. Since the early 1990s, women reached the level of being 80% more likely to attain a degree than men. But, we still haven’t reached pay parity. I could go on of course.

  7. Woa.I have yet to look at the comments above, but what I would advocate is to keep the statues and the street names and so on. Well, maybe some of them can be removed if there are exceptional reasons. But to also, without blinking, include this in our assessment of one of our most important historical figures.

    Be realistic; not idealistic.

  8. This is very uncomfortable for me. I’ve always admired MLK for his civil rights fight.

    The Phila. Flyers recently stopped playing Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” and took down her statue because she sang racist songs in the 1930s. And I supported that because I think the right thing to do is find a singer without racist songs in her discography. Many fans think it’s unfair but for me it was a no-brainer.

    How much good must a person do to get a pass for his bad behavior? That’s the million dollar question.

    1. I suppose it will have to ‘depend’. How important are they to society as a whole today? How many and how vocal will be their supporters versus detractors?
      K. Smith: Not so important, so she is likely to be dropped in most venues. Odd in a way, since what she did was much less awful.
      MLK: We will probably keep his name on at least several thousand streets and buildings and most of his statues will probably still stand. We could still have our MLK holiday, but now part of our reflections during that holiday will be awkward and less hero-worshippey.
      But I doubt there will be new streets or buildings named after him.

      1. The MLK holiday could easily be repurposed as “Civil Rights” day, a day for commemorating and rededicating the nation to civil rights for all. Maybe it should have been that from the start.

  9. I admit to being completely broken-hearted about the rape incident. This doesn’t sit well with me at all and I honestly don’t know how to take it. It’s not as if shifting sands of morality has made once-acceptable actions now unacceptable. This is far different, if it is true. I felt the same about Cosby. One bad thing can erase all the good a person has done in life, if it was bad enough and I’m tilting heavily towards that feeling right now. It really pisses me off and hurts at the same time.

  10. Admire what is good, reject what is bad. Oversimplified, but still true.

    Having heard about the FBI surveillance years ago – I still don’t know why he was allowed to be targeted in the first place? Was it just Hooverite bigotry, or is there more to it than that?

  11. What I don’t get is that this information about King participating in an illegal and immoral act, had it been released at the time, would have destroyed MLK as a moral force. And a lot of people, inside and outside government, wanted King destroyed. So why does it come out fifty years later?

    1. Possible answer might be who was doing this and his purpose. This was old J Edgar Hoover doing his own unauthorized surveillance of King. The purpose was to blackmail King as best I know. That is what Hoover did to lots of folks back then.

      1. I’ve no doubts at all that Hoover over-stepped his bounds but his surveillance of King was not entirely unauthorized. At least some of the wire tapping of King was authorized by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The case was made that one of Kings close associates, Stanley Levison, was a member of the Communist Party. And we all know how paranoid many government folks were about the Communist Party at that time.

        1. So you still have no answer to your question, why not release this stuff back then. I still think Hoover was doing all this for blackmail. He kept files on everyone, including other presidents and Bobby Kennedy. You have to make all the people believe the dirt you have to make that work. Look at what we have today with Trump and he is not going anywhere.

          1. I wasn’t trying to answer that question. I was merely pointing out the simple fact that Hoover’s surveillance of King wasn’t completely unauthorized. I agree Hoover was bent on blackmail as that was his SOP. Not to mention the evidence showing he did actually blackmail King, or attempt to.

          2. Sorry, I got you mixed up with Darwinwins, who started this string. His was the question I referred to.

            Maybe Hoover was too busy dressing up in women’s clothes.

          3. Dressing in women’s clothes is harmless enough. I won’t make a judgment about that.

            But the blackmailing argument. If Hoover (say) were blackmailing MLK, it would be to make him do or stop doing something. Suicide, I doubt. Shutting up, very likely. But if you’ve got these goods on MLK, not just his extra-marital affairs, you don’t need to blackmail. Just release the tapes and MLK’s power would be gone.

          4. “Just release the tapes and MLK’s power would be gone.”

            That wasn’t Hoover’s style. Just release the tapes and Hoover’s power over MLK would be gone.

            He liked to be pulling the strings. Burning MLK would mean he had one less string to pull.


    2. That’s my question too. I can’t imagine Hoover having this information and thinking, Nah, I’m keeping this to myself.

      That’s as likely as having the atom bomb but still letting your enemies win.

      Even if the intention was to blackmail King, why didn’t they?

      1. According to Garrow the FBI did attempt to blackmail MLK in the form of a letter, SEE HERE

        It seems the FBI in that era weren’t good at using some types of sexual material for blackmail – the agent selection process included WASP moral values to a ridiculous, disabling degree. No room for diversity**. A very straight laced organisation where I imagine discussions in meetings around sexual mores & practises would have been extremely stilted. Imagine these white, Protestant guys in crisp white shirts & buzz cuts trying to plan a blackmail involving such exotica as cunnilingus! 🙂

        ** Diversity: at the time of 9/11 in 2001 the FBI had only EIGHT speakers of Arabic. The FBI has never been fit for purpose.

  12. While the Left will advocate removing statues of racists, they won’t do anything about MLK. Being abusive to women (rape) isn’t that serious a crime. Don’t believe me? Wait for it.

    1. You could be right but then, they dropped Cosby like a bad habit. I think it might get a little tired walking down Martin Luther King Boulevard on their way to church.

    2. There is very little evidence that there was rape or that King endorsed it.

      I think the assertion that (to the left) “Being abusive to women (rape) isn’t that serious crime” is a bit over the top too.

      Look what happened to Tim Hunt or Matt Taylor.
      Where is Lawrence Krauss now?

      There is plenty of evidence on the seriousness of rape and abuse.

      But, lets wait until we can evaluate the real evidence. The tapes that are still sealed.
      All we have now are summaries and opinions.

      But, the mob is all ready forming I feel.

      1. Do you really think sexism is on par with other bigotry? Why then the lack of support and reporting by the Left on things like women being asked to move in airplanes when Jews don’t want to sit next to them? Why the actual asking of the women to move? This would be a far bigger deal if it were a person asking not to sit next to a black person. And really? Lawrence Krauss abused women for decades before being called out….would this have been allowed to go on if he were being bigoted toward blacks or Jews? Sorry, but I see no evidence that the Left takes sexism as seriously as other bigotry at all.

        1. The simple fact is that there is condemnation of and for, all those things you mention.

          And there are very serious penalties for abuse and rape.

          It is not correct to assert it isn’t,

          Being asked to move by religious loons is hardly comparable and probably isn’t permissible if said person doesn’t want to move.

          Was Krauss really ‘abusing’ women for years.
          There were plenty that didn’t see it.

          Point he got punished.

          As did Tim Hunt , excessively.

          As are many many people in jail for years.

          Rape had the death penalty in some states up until the seventies.

          Claiming that “Being abusive to women (rape) isn’t that serious a crime.” is incorrect.

  13. The second of those accounts seems to be describing fully consensual activities, unless I missed something.

    The first account seems damming, but ought we not view it with some skepticism as the activities are being recorded and described by people who are massively biased against King. And are massive prudes.
    While so called experts would have reviewed the audio, it is only audio.
    The only really damming part is, on the alleged rape that,

    ““King looked on, laughed and offered advice,” Sullivan or one of his deputies then added in handwriting.”

    Why was it added in handwriting. Is it in the cited transcript.
    Was it Kings voice?
    Who determined that a rape actually occurred?

    FBI agents. Only.

    There is only this one such severe assertion in the whole of the available data and it is only a summary of the actual recording. Which is still sealed.

    The article states how important personal recruitment and informing was compared to electronic surveillance.
    Yet there is no accounts of personal testimony regarding rape.

    I don’t think there is anywhere near enough evidence to make any determination on Kings attitude to rape from this one off biased summary.

    I will wait until the actual recordings are available for a proper unbiased analysis.

    Until then, I don’t believe it.

    1. I share your reservations. I guess we should also recall that (a) quite a lot of behaviour that is completely beyond the pale today was at least tolerated 50-60 years ago; and (b) that J Edgar Hoover devoted much more of the FBI’s time and resources to MLK than to, say, Hollywood actors, rock stars or Republican politicians. MLK was a bloke; and, sadly, that’s what a lot of blokes got away with back then.

  14. It seems as if every hero comes with a matching set of dead or abused people.

    We expect that because of their perfect heroic deeds they are ‘perfect people’, touched by gods, or destiny, or ideology. How disappointing to find out they are imperfect.

    Does it diminish the good they do? I’d argue not – and that it leaves the door open for us to be heroic too.

      1. And there are plenty of women and men who
        live out their entire lives without an
        evidentiary trace of nor even a thinking of
        untowardness. Ever. My Daddy among these.


  15. Damn, Garrow’s piece reads like one of those FBI “document inserts” James Ellroy used as a narrative technique in his Underworld USA trilogy.

    The allegation that MLK abetted a rape is horrifying — if true, but the only evidence of it so far, as I read Garrow’s article, is a summary report of a longer narrative report prepared by an agent who purports to have listened to an audiotape. The remaining allegations, while perhaps off-putting, seem to involve the private peccadilloes of consenting adults.

    Such information would be crucial regarding living persons with access to classified information, due to their being rendered vulnerable to blackmail. As to the dead, they may have an impact on MLK’s historical reputation regarding character and hypocrisy (although I don’t recall him preaching sexual puritanism to others), but they’re essentially just scuttlebutt.

    1. I agree with your assessment, Ken. Although I’ve read rumors of these charges against King for years I don’t think we should adjudicate the allegations before all of the evidence is presented. There’s a vast difference between being a hound dog and facilitating rape.

  16. I think I disagree with the majority here. There is a big difference between being a racist in a time of racism (Gandhi), a slave owner in a time of slavery (George Washington) and aiding a rapist in the 1960s.

    Some things are too big to ignore. If this is true, then I do not think he should be honored in any way. Call it Civil Rights Day and rename the streets. Obviously, he did great things but rape overshadows that.

    I have never watched a Polanski movie because he is a child rapist. I quit watching Bill Cosby because he is a rapist.

    1. There is no real good evidence of the rape allegation.

      This whole thing is a sensationalist beat up.

  17. The pushback to Garrow’s allegations has already gone as discussed in this Washington Post article. We may not know the truth for sure until the tapes are released in 2027. I note, however, that it is sometimes very difficult for some to accept that a hero was not actually so heroic. Such was the case when several noted historians rejected the contention that Thomas Jefferson sired children with his slave, Sally Hemings. It is now generally accepted that he did so. But, I suppose this view can change if new evidence emerges.


    1. Hard to see how the Jefferson-Hemings relationship will change much now that DNA has spoken. (Although, maybe you were referring to MLK… I can’t quite tell.)

      1. The DNA evidence doesn’t preclude that a relative of Jefferson may have been the father, although this is quite unlikely.

        1. I guess we have different evidence on the DNA. DNA evidence confirmed Jefferson’s highly probable paternity of Eston Hemings,the youngest child, in 1997.

          Page 19, American Dialogue – Joseph J. Ellis

      2. Hemming was Jefferson’s unmarried wife for maybe 18 years and always a slave besides because that was the hypocrisy of Jefferson. Also, while he freed some of her children, he never freed her. She was not pure enough.

    2. I see in the WaPo piece that Dinesh D’Souza has tweeted to say King was “quite a sicko.”

      Incurring the opprobrium of a moral leper like D’Souza ought be the first step in the rehabilitation of Dr. King’s reputation.

    3. This quote from the WaPo article seems fairly problematic:

      “It is not known whether tapes and transcripts that correspond to the summaries exist. All of the King recordings are under court seal at the National Archives until Jan. 31, 2027. Garrow acknowledges that he has not listened to them or viewed transcripts.”

      Garrow hasn’t heard the tapes, and they may not even exist anymore. The entire evidence against King of anything criminal:

      “…is made in a handwritten notation by an unknown person on one of the typed summaries. If accurate, the notation indicates that King was witness to a sexual assault.”

      There are reasonable indications that the FBI might have had some confirmation bias when writing their report and summary.

      More to the point, how do you follow up on this? There is no named victim, there is a handwritten anonymous note, and there may be an audio recording released in 2027. There is no known witness who saw anything.

      I can see how the Guardian and the others could decide to take a pass on publishing this.

  18. I do find it remarkable that the intent of the FBI surveillance seems to have had nothing to do with law enforcement, but simply to find suitable dirt on a man they feared. And they did find it.

    Many among the Alt Right look to do the same. They are not interested in a fair historical assessment. These are the kind of people who voted for Trump despite his record of crimes. These are the people who say their only problem with Hitler is that he went beyond Germany’s borders with his nationalism. For them evidence of criminality is to be used only against libs and ignored for those they support.

    1. “These are the kind of people who voted for Trump despite his record of crimes”

      To my knowledge Trump has never been convicted of a crime. What crimes are you referring to?

      1. You do understand the difference between committing a crime and being convicted of a crime, don’t you? If not…. check it out. Turns out that many crimes are committed for which charges are not made. Weird, eh?

        1. Not so much weird as Orwellian, by your logic. You and Nick declare crimes have been committed and thus it is so. No further corroboration needed.

          1. Are you… goading people into responding to your frankly ridiculous comments? I mean, I’ve seen worse, but I didn’t expect to see something so childish here.


          2. I don’t think asking someone what they mean by a “record of crimes” is ridiculous, childish, or goading. It’s rather straightforward.

          3. Agreed.
            It is easy to create a possible crime by the leaving out a word or two here and there.

            Say by leaving off “They let you…”

          1. I posted both *crickets* comments yesterday within a few hours of each other; I’ve not posted anything since you’d admonished me the first time.

            I agree that *crickets* is a bit childish, meant to underscore how easy it is to throw around allegations while refusing to back them up, but I didn’t think it to be worse than many other irreverent remarks I’ve seen here before. Since you find it offensive I won’t post it again.

            I’m assuming that my original question, trying to discern what is meant by a “record of crimes”, is neither offensive nor childish.

  19. The transcripts and recordings need to be released now, not 2027. If they prove MLK was present and acted approvingly at a rape scene, there should not be another MLK day, ever.

  20. What’s the difference between an atheist and a christian? Christians have a moral compass.

    1. I’m reminded that in the immediate aftermath of the death of Billy Graham, a letter writer to the NY Times castigated Graham for always having (at least?) two staff members in his immediate presence whenever he was in the presence of a woman not his wife. (I remember years ago reading of this precautionary measure.) The letter writer got in a little dig at Graham, asking to-the-effect could Graham not control himself/behave unless others were also present.

      Of course, other facets of Graham’s character manifested themselves in the Nixon tapes.

  21. I’m probably revealing my own naivete here but how can FBI agents listen to a rape occurring in a nearby room and not intervene?

  22. King’s behavior toward women is repugnant. And yet with regards to civil rights he called us all to be better people and bravely modeled what better could be. He deserves to be admired, in part, as well as condemned, in part.

    We humans are complex. I’ve learned this lesson before. My father, a good man in many ways, repeatedly had sex with young men, sometimes including teenagers. A friend murdered a woman he’d had an ambiguous relationship with. My own sins tend to be of omission rather than commission, but in one case helped lead to a tragic result.

    We should be clear about the difference between what is good and what is not, and not try to brush away the negative side of people we admire. However, we should also realize that humans far too often exhibit both kinds of behavior.

  23. Well, first, I don’t believe it, as yet. Not because I think MLK incapable of it – I don’t know enough about him to have an opinion – but because it came from the FBI. I’d as soon believe a publication from Herr Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda.

    Secondly – I don’t care. Considered in the light of MLK’s public achievements, his private life is irrelevant.

    I doubt if any famous person has an utterly blameless private life. Nobody else does. The only difference between famous peoples’ private lives and anybody else’s is that many famous people get their private lives snooped into, either at the time or retrospectively.

    If we’re going to discount the achievements of every famous person because they had human defects, there won’t be much left.


    1. The problem with arguing that “If we’re going to discount the achievements of every famous person because they had human defects, there won’t be much left.”

      Is that the SJWs are obsessed with the idea of ‘taint’, in their eyes the crimes will outway the good and since the SJWs are already convinced that judging character by skin color is a good idea, this just gives them another excuse to dismiss Kings words.

      It might also explain the reluctance of The Guardian to publish this material. They understand the type of audience they write for.

  24. Special council says:

    1) We investigated the president
    2) We are not allowed to charge a sitting president
    3) If we saw no crimes we would have said so

    It takes a special kind of self deception to conclude “No crimes. Nothing to see here.”

    1. “If we saw no crimes we would have said so”

      It takes a special kind of person to think this is implicating or even makes any sense.

  25. All that happened when MLK was in his 30s, and only 15-20 years before Brett Kavanaugh, 17, assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. It’s weird, but now Kavanaugh looks like a more decent person than Martin Luther King.

      1. Had Jesus behaved as Dr. King did, I would rather have Kavanaugh, as a neighbor or co-worker, than Jesus.

  26. To answer the question about statues, I think we should stop using the likenesses of specific humans as monuments in public spaces. Likenesses are contextually appropriate in museums, eponymous libraries, and so forth. As inspirational monuments in public spaces, artwork that focuses on ideals would be more enduring and less divisive.

    1. I think we need the personification of limitations for a “statue of limitations”. Buh dum da (I know it’s statute).

  27. As of now, Friday morning, (9:52am, CDT, I’ve read through the comments (33 in number, plus the follow-ups) on this most distressing news about MLKjr.’s immoral behavior as a sexual predator. While I may have missed it, I didn’t see anything HERE about his much less grave evil of having all-too-obviously plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation at Boston University. No equivalence with this new charge of accessory to rape, of course, but surely an aspect of character. . .

    . . . which was explained away by his admirers in two principal ways: 1) that’s just the way he worked, a busy man with much else to get on with in his so-important mission; and 2) this good and necessary work he was doing made mere plagiarism hardly worth noticing in the cosmic scheme of the ‘moral arc.’

    And after a few days it no longer was. Noticed, that is. And the university committee that had investigated declared that, yes, MLKjr had plagiarized, but ‘despite its finding. . . “no thought should be given to the revocation of Dr. King’s doctoral degree,” an action that the panel said would serve no purpose [Wikipedia].’

    NO THOUGHT. . . NO PURPOSE. . . .

  28. A very good idea of what is meant by “record of crimes” can be found in the Mueller report.

    The argument that Trump has not been convicted of anything is a rhetorical trick that relies on equating crimes and convictions. I don’t think many people on this site are ignorant enough to not know the difference between these things and that leaves me with an even less charitable conclusion.

    1. This is related to the technical (legal) meaning of “innocent” and its difference from the ordinary language meaning. Before a legal proceeding, one is neither innocent nor guilty in the first sense.

  29. So, a 1950s-60s influential and charismatic USA preacher and poitician used his position to get sex? Well, grab my pussy and pass me another stripper, this one is too Stormy, I am so astonished.
    Next thing you’ll be telling me that some preachers are not utter paragons of fiscal propriety, and I won’t believe a word of it.
    Ohh, heavy news!

  30. Very many of the statements in response to
    this post give to men their classic pass.
    Classic. For men and for boys. None of this
    pass ‘ld be or is ever, ever given to women
    and girls.

    The actual deal in re Mr King and in re any
    other man or any other woman is three – fold.

    i) Do not be telling me, and definitely do
    not be hypocritically telling me by way of
    your religions up within pulpits anywhere
    along with threats unto me of current ( let
    alone, eternal ) damnation, that I cannot be
    having harmless, consensual relationships.

    ii) When one uses their position ? Use it
    for All or, at its very, very least, do not
    use it to determinedly exclude any segment,
    let alone, 53% of everyone … … ‘fore you get
    to have folks claim your ‘goodness’ and your
    ‘works for humanity’ being of greatness.
    They are not. They are selfish, self –
    serving, disingenuous, hypocritical and, the
    worst, often injurious and deadly in re Us
    Others. Millions of lives Mr King along with
    His Gang of ClergyMen outta the Southern
    Christian Leadership Conference could have
    been saved from That Arc of infanticide, of
    clitoridectomies, of trafficking and of

    iii) As examples both my own Daddy
    and my Person recently last month at a young,
    young age dead, All can live out their entire
    lives withOUT hypocritically making promises
    to Others and, then, not care a whit about
    keeping Their Word, going out and doing
    whatevah utterly contradicts .that. which
    they ‘ad promised. Keep your promises.
    IF you believe that you cannot keep your
    promises, fine: THEN there are perfectly
    legal and moral ways to stop keeping one’s
    vows. Go do those ways .BEFORE. one goes out
    and has as much sex or as much of anything
    else harmless, consensual or previously
    promised to Any Others … … as one wants.
    In re relationships in particular, it used
    to be called, before promising or vowing
    to anyone else A Thing, playing the field. It was never rocket science. It was never
    religions’ directives from any men’s pulpits
    down .and specifically. upon Us Not Males.
    There has never been “a need” to give men
    and boys, ever, The Classic Pass. Just go
    out and do not only what is quite $without
    cost$ and does not threaten nor preach to me,
    is accountable but also what has long, long
    been k n o w n by, and for, All ( genders and most certainly by Any Men o’th’ Cloth ):
    The Right Thing.


  31. I find it difficult to understand how broadcasting the failings of a dead man can prove helpful in the present. It is almost as if people today think that if we can just get everything out in the open that it will go away. But it will not–it will just be out in the open where it will inflame even more than when it was kept private. That which led MLKking to be the kind of man he was will not be resolved, neither for him or for men who have these same problems today. Society needs an answer to the problem of evil and apart from that broadcasting the evils will only deepen their effect.

    1. Truth is always a good thing. It is always better to understand history accurately than it is to intentionally maintain a fiction.

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