Timeline: Romney's MLK Confusion

Timeline: Romney's MLK Confusion

It's becoming increasingly hard to follow the various explanations and accounts of Mitt Romney's father, George, "marching" (so it is claimed) alongside Martin Luther King Jr. At first the former Massachusetts governor said that he saw the two walk together through the streets of Michigan. Now? Well, it depends what your definition of "saw" is. Here is a timeline of this confusing political saga.

June 23, 1963 - Then Michigan Gov. George Romney issues a proclamation in support of Martin Luther King Jr.'s march in Detroit but declines to attend, according to Susan Englander, assistant editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University. A New York Times story from that time confirms the account, noting that Romney skipped the event because it fell on a Sunday.

June 1963 - Days after the march in Detroit, George Romney does attend a civil rights march in the upscale suburb, Grosse Pointe. But, according to records, King is not in attendance.

1967 - Stephen Hess and David Broder author the book "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP," in which they write that George Romney, "has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit."

March 14, 1968 - Martin Luther King makes an appearance in Grosse Pointe weeks before his assassination. There is no civil rights march and George Romney is not in attendance.

1978 - Mitt Romney, in an interview with the Boston Herald about the Mormon Church and racial discrimination, puts himself into the narrative. "My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit," he is quoted as saying.

1987 - Joe T. Darden writes the book "Detroit, Race and Uneven Development," which describes "freedom marches" around and in Detroit. The marches were sponsored by the NAACP, the book notes, and George Romney did attend one of the events. But there is no note of King also being in attendance.

April 16, 2002 - The Boston Globe reports: "As the son proudly recalls, Governor Romney was a civil rights supporter who walked the streets of Detroit with Martin Luther King Jr. "He was a social moderate . . . but on the fiscal side he was very tough. Of course, he was also the governor who proposed the first state income tax in Michigan. But don't write that," says Romney."

October 31, 2002 - Accord to the Bay State Banner: "Taking the stage, Romney opened up by invoking the memory of his father, who marched in civil rights demonstrations with Martin Luther King, Jr., and pledged to carry on that legacy."

December 6, 2007 - Romney, in a speech about his Mormon faith in Texas, declares: "I was taught in my home to honor god and love thy neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King."

December 16, 2007 - Appearing on Meet the Press, Mitt Romney declares: "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."

December 19, 2007 - The Boston Phoenix reports that it could find no evidence that George Romney and King ever marched together. "While the late George W. Romney, a four-term governor of Michigan, can lay claim to a strong record on civil rights," the paper notes, "the Phoenix can find no evidence that the senior Romney actually marched with King, nor anything in the public record suggesting that he ever claimed to do so."

Later that day - Eric Fehrnstron, a spokesman for the Romney presidential campaign, writes the Phoenix that Romney and King marched together, although possibly not on the same day or in the same city. "The record is convincing and clear," Fehrnstron writes, "George Romney marched with Martin Luther King and other civil rights demonstrators.

December 20, 2007 - The Detroit Free Press reports that, it too, cannot turn up records of Romney and King marching together. Fehrnstron tells the paper that Romney was "speaking figuratively, not literally."

Later in the day - Romney is asked about the discrepancies in accounts. "Did you actually see -- with your own eyes -- your father marching with Martin Luther King?," CBS News wanted to know.

Romney: "My own eyes? You know, I speak in the sense of I saw my dad become president of American Motors. I wasn't actually there when he became president of American Motors, but I saw him in the figurative sense of he marched with Martin Luther King. My brother also remembers him marching with Martin Luther King and so in that sense I saw him march with Martin Luther King." He added, "You know, I'm an English literature major as well. When we say, 'I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there -- excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it's a figure of speech."

Later in the day - Speaking to reporters in Iowa, Romney tries again to explain the historical record. "If you look at the literature," he says, "if you look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of in the sense I've described. It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware o his participation in that great effort."

December 21, 2007 - Stephen Hess, author of "The Republican Establishment," tells the Boston Herald, "The point we were making [in the book] was that the issue of Mormonism had to do with its civil rights record. Did he walk with Martin Luther King? Today, I have no idea."

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