Black Republican group's ad accuses Dems of starting KKK, claims MLK was Republican

Ron Brynaert
Published: Thursday September 21, 2006

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(Update: Blogger-journalist Steve Gilliard calls ad a "time bomb" for Senate candidate Michael Steele)

A radio advertisement running in Maryland, produced by the National Black Republican Association, has been drawing heat for claiming that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was really a Republican and that Democrats opposed all civil rights legislation from the 1860's to the 1960's and were responsible for starting the Ku Klux Klan.

NBRA radio ad

Although it doesn't mention any candidates, the advertisement is being aired to support Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele as he runs against 10-term Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin for the first open Maryland Senate seat in two decades. Last year, Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes announced that he wouldn't be seeking reelection to a sixth term.

The 60-second advertisement is shaped as a casual conversation between two African-American women, with one explaining to the other how Democrats have "bamboozled" blacks into believing that their party has done more for the civil rights movement than the Republican Party.

The character named "Tina" claims that Democrats "passed those Black Codes and Jim Crow laws," "started the Ku Klux Klan," and "released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks."

According to the "Tina" character, "Democrats have talked the talk, but Republicans have walked the walk."

"Girl, it's time for us to do the walk," the women say together at the end. "Y'know it, girl."

The National Black Republican Association believes that their "edgy" ad, paid for by the Black Republican Freedom Fund, a 527 organization, will "open the eyes of black Americans" by setting the "record straight," even though civil-rights historians are challenging their claims.

"It sets the record straight, demonstrating that it was Republicans, not Democrats, who championed civil rights for blacks over the past 150 years," NBRA Chairman Frances Rice said in a press release. "Democrats have hijacked the civil rights record of the Republican Party and fought every effort of Republicans to help blacks get off of the Democrat Party’s economic plantation."

Although Lt. Gov. Steele told the Washington Post only yesterday, before he heard the ad, that it was "about time the Republicans speak to their real place in history . . . and to debunk the myths," his campaign released a statement earlier today asking the group to pull it.

"NBRA’s current radio ad is insulting to Marylanders and should come down immediately," said the Steele campaign statement. "Although they may have had good intentions, there is no room for this kind of slash-and-burn partisan politics in the important conversation about how to best bring meaningful change to Washington, D.C. and get something done for Maryland."

"This is exactly the kind of attack politics Marylanders are sick of and why it's time to change this Washington brand of cut-throat politics," added Steele. "My campaign has already contacted NBRA and demanded the ad be removed from the air immediately."

Historians slam 'distortions'

The Washington Post spoke to a University of Maryland political scientist who slammed the ad's "distortions."

"It is a totally fallacious rendition of the platform of the parties because, in effect, what happened is, the two parties essentially switched ideology," Ronald Walters told the Post.

A Martin Luther King Jr. biographer and a senior researcher with the Atlanta-based King Center told the Associated Press that the Reverend was non-partisan and that he never endorsed any politician from either of the parties.

"I think it's highly inaccurate to say he was a Republican because there's really no evidence," King Center researcher Steve Klein told the Associated Press.

The AP also notes that the NBRA "describes itself on its Web site as 'a resource for the black community on Republican ideals'" but "does not say how many members it has."

Last year, it was reported that half of the newly formed group's board of directors had resigned, at the same time that the Bush Administration was taking heat for the federal response after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

"The organization and it's current leadership is heading down a much different direction than was envisioned by myself and the other board members," former communications director Christopher Arps said in an email sent to Redding News Review last year.

'Steele knows it's a time bomb'

Yesterday, Manhattan journalist Steve Gilliard wrote a post at his News Blog, which contained a point-by-point response to each line in the radio ad.

In reaction to the claim that "Democrats want us to accept same sex marriages, teen abortion without a parent’s consent, and suing the boy scouts for saying 'God' in their pledge," Gilliard fired back that "[m]ost black people care more about jobs and Iraq than gays marrying."

Gilliard told RAW STORY that the ad was particularly offensive because "it assumes that blacks are unsophisticated voters, who are driven by emotion," when Maryland just "may have the highest concentration of blacks with advanced degrees on the planet."

"So to try and rewrite history is insulting," Gilliard added. "People know the history of the two parties and this is just offensive."

Last October, a spokesman for Steele blasted Gilliard for posting a photograph on his blog doctored to portray the Senate candidate as a minstrel after he attended a fundraiser held for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. at an all-white country club.

"The Democratic Party has finally reached a new low with the worst kind of racist gutter politics, and it's the kind of racism that people in Maryland reject, regardless of their political party," Steele's spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said.

Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told the Washington Post that the statement was "almost as bad as what the Web site did -- to try to smear an entire party with what one random person threw up on the Web."

Gilliard told RAW STORY that Steele knows the radio advertisement is "a time bomb for which he will pay for."

"Because Steele is the beneficiary of this ad, he will pay the most for it," said Gilliard.

Transcript of advertisement as prepared by NBRA:


Script: National Black Republican Association 60-Second Radio Spot Paid for by the Black Republican Freedom Fund, an NBRA 527 affiliate Not authorized by any candidate or political committee

Pam: Dr. King was a real man.

Tina: You know . . he was a Republican.

Pam: Dr. King, a Republican? Really?

Tina: Democrats passed those Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan.

Pam: The Klan . . . White hoods and sheets?!

Tina: Democrats fought ALL Civil Rights Legislation from the 1860’s to the 1960’s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks.

Pam: Seriously!

Tina: And the Dixiecrats? Remained Democrats and vowed to vote for a yellow dog, before a Republican. Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution.

Pam: What?

Tina: Republicans started the NAACP, affirmative action and the HBCU’s.

Pam: Democrats have bamboozled blacks.

Tina: Democrats blocked the minimum wage passed by Republicans. Over 200 billion dollars have been spent on education, healthcare and job training since President Bush took office.

Pam: So, Democrats want to keep us POOR and voting ONLY Democrat.

Tina: Democrats want us to accept same-sex marriages; teen abortions without a parent’s consent and suing the Boy Scouts for saying “God” in their pledge.

Pam: We NEED to THINK! and vote OUR own values.

Tina: Exactly… Democrats have talked the talk, but Republicans have walked the walk.

Pam: I hear ya girl. It time for us to “DO” the walk.

(Together they laugh about it.)