Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sparks outcry by saying Martin Luther King Jr ‘gave his life’

The iconic campaigner was assassinated 51 years ago

Andrew Buncombe
Monday 21 January 2019 22:30 GMT
Bernie Sanders: Martin Luther King 'wanted to transform our country morally, economically and racially'

Donald Trump’s White House spokeswoman has triggered anger by writing that slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King “gave his life”.

On a day when people across the country paid respects to the campaigner, organiser and preacher who 50 years ago was central to the still unrealised push for African American equality, Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote of King: “Today we honour a great American who gave his life to right the wrong of racial inequality. Our country is better thanks to his inspiration and sacrifice #MLKDay.”

People were quick to point out that King, hated by the white political establishment of the 1960s and spied on by the FBI, had been shot dead in April 1968 at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His death triggered riots and protests across the country.

King is believed to have been murdered by James Earl Ray, a white racist who was a supporter of Alabama governor George Wallace, who had repeatedly attacked King and his supporters. An opponent of desegregation, Wallace launched a presidential bid in 1968.

Ms Sanders’ comments were leapt out. One poster, Sarah Wood, wrote: “He was killed. He was killed by the same type of people who continue to support Trump and attend his rallies with confederate flags and racist slogans. MLK Jr. didn’t give his life, his life was stolen. Shame on you for trying to spin that fact.”

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Veteran activist and actress Mia Farrow wrote: “He was murdered In Memphis at age 39. He would surely have opposed the cruel, unjust policies of Donald Trump.”

This is not the first instance when members of the Trump administration have found themselves at the centre of controversy in relation to King and his legacy.

Over the weekend, vice president Mike Pence, who on Monday laid a wreath with Mr Trump at the MLK Memorial in Washington, used parts of King’s celebrated “Dream” speech to try and urge Congress to accept the president’s demand for a border wall

“One of my favorite quotes from Dr King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy’,” he told CBS.

“You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union.”

Mr Pence’s words were criticised by King’s son Martin Luther King III.

“The vice president attempted to compare the president to Martin Luther King Jr,” he said.

“Martin Luther King Jr was a bridge builder, not a wall builder. Martin Luther King Jr would say, ‘Love, not hate, will make America great’.”

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