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Was it all a dream?

EXCLUSIVE: Mitt Romney claims that his father marched with MLK, but the record says otherwise
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 21, 2007

REALLY?: Was Romney just dreaming?


In the most-watched speech of his political career, speaking on “Faith in America” at College Station, Texas, earlier this month, Mitt Romney evoked the strongest of all symbolic claims to civil-rights credentials: “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.”

He has repeated the claim several times recently, most prominently to Tim Russert on Meet the Press. But, while the late George W. Romney, a four-term governor of Michigan, can lay claim to a strong record on civil rights, 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.

Nor did Mitt Romney ever previously claim that this took place, until long after his father passed away in 1995 — not even when defending accusations of the Mormon church’s discriminatory past during his 1994 Senate campaign.

Asked about the specifics of George Romney’s march with MLK, Mitt Romney’s campaign told the Phoenix that it took place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. That jibes with the description proffered by David S. Broder in a Washington Post column written days after Mitt’s College Station speech.

Broder, in that column, references a 1967 book he co-authored on the Republican Party, which included a chapter on George Romney. It includes a one-line statement that the senior Romney “has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit.”

But that account is incorrect. King never marched in Grosse Pointe, according to the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, and had not appeared in the town at all at the time the Broder book was published. “I’m quite certain of that,” says Suzy Berschback, curator of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society. (Border was not immediately available for comment.)

Berschback also believes that George Romney never appeared at a protest, march, or rally in Grosse Pointe. “We’re a small town,” she says. “Governors don’t come here very often, except for fundraisers.”

In fact, King’s only appearance in Grosse Pointe, according to Berschback, took place after Broder’s book was published.

That was for a March 14 speech he delivered at Grosse Pointe High School, just three weeks before King was assassinated. But there was no march, and George Romney was not there.

Security concerns would have made a march impossible, even had one been planned. King was personally driven directly to the high school by the sheriff, as described by accounts at the time.

This 1968 Grosse Pointe appearance is the one that Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom initially insisted, in email exchanges with the Phoenix, was the event in question. Fehrnstrom cited the Broder column and “the Romney family recollection.”

Of the many contemporaneous and historical records of the Grosse Pointe speech, none make any mention of George Romney’s attendance. It is unlikely, if not implausible, that his presence would have gone unnoticed: not only was he governor of the state, he had just, weeks before, dropped out of the race for President.

And, Mitt Romney would not have known about the event, let alone had a chance to “see” it. He was at that time in the middle of his two-year mission for the Mormon church in Le Havre, France. By his own description and others’, he was cut off from virtually all contact with his family; and at the time, King’s Grosse Pointe appearance was no more than local news.

The original mention, in Broder’s 1967 book, of a Romney-King Grosse Pointe march might have resulted from an accidental conflation of several different events.

In June 1963, King marched in Detroit, and delivered an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech; Governor George Romney did not participate, according to news accounts of the time.

Later that month, a local organization of roughly 50 members, called the Grosse Pointe Human Rights Council, held a walk through their town in support of open housing.

King had already left the state, and Romney did not participate in the Grosse Pointe walk, according to records from the time.

George Romney would later lead a 10,000-person march through Detroit, but not with King.

Although Broder’s book contained the brief mention, there is nothing in the public record to suggest that George Romney himself ever claimed to have marched with King.

Had George Romney ever marched with Martin Luther King Jr., it almost certainly would have been documented. From the mid-’50s through 1962, Romney was one of the country’s most prominent business leaders — for him to travel South for a civil-rights march would have been remarkable. From January 1963 on, as governor of Michigan and a presumed Presidential candidate, Romney was one of the most visible political figures in the country.


A spokesperson for Mitt Romney now tells the Phoenix that George W. Romney and Martin Luther King Jr. marched together in June, 1963 -- although possibly not on the same day or in the same city.

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Related: King said George Romney didn't march, Feeding the rabid right, Plogging away, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney, Wayne State University,  More more >
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Was it all a dream?
I'm no Romney fan, as you would know if you visited my site, but I think he's probably accurate enough given the likely full history, if not precise. First, this MI historical magazine reference list has MLK in Grosse Pointe, obviously at a prior date. Maybe it's the same appearance to which you refer, but maybe not. More importantly, and I think this might get Mitt off the hook, given that he would have been about 15 years old at the time, there WAS a big MLK March down Woodward Avenue on June 25, 1963, and I would not be at all surprised if his dad marched in that -- Except that as gov, security may have been a problem. Recall that MLK was a Republican. Go to Page 28 at this link (search was on michigan romney martin luther king, I think): // Ah, but the plot thickens: // George Romney's PREDECESSOR as governor marched down Woodward Avenue. The Wiki entry for George Romney says he was strong on civil rights, but makes no mention of the march. It would be interesting to see if George as guv issued a proclamation of any kind or made a speech on the day of the 1963 march, if he didn't himself march. Again giving Mitt the benefit of the doubt, it's not unlikely, since he was 15 or so during the time period, that he would over the years have juxtaposed the events and even give his father a little more credit than he deserved. But there may be more to the story. That's why, in this case, you're the reporter and I'm the commenter. :--> Tom Blumer Mason, OH
By BizzyBlog on 12/19/2007 at 2:38:27
Was it all a dream?
Sorry the MI mag ref was // Scroll down to nov-dec 1988.
By BizzyBlog on 12/19/2007 at 2:40:42
Was it all a dream?
truth? what part of trying to win do you not understand?
By wise mAnSS on 12/20/2007 at 8:14:32
Was it all a dream?
Another Lying Republicanazi out to get elected so he can impose his Mormon Lying Beliefs on the rest of us. He'll do the rightwing dance with Iraq, steal money thru his wealthy friends and investments and retire even richer. He'll ignore the poor, sabotage healthcare reform and be a general rat.
By Republicansareliars on 12/20/2007 at 2:05:16
Was it all a dream?
I wouldn't know the specifics here, but I do remember a number of things very clearly from 1963 and one of them is that George Romney was fearless in standing up for civil rights.
By NJpaul on 12/20/2007 at 5:11:26
Was it all a dream?
It happened and it was in Grosse Point, June '63, Detroit Free Press (6/29/63): “With Gov. Romney a surprise arrival and marching in the front row [of] a peaceful antidiscrimination parade up Grosse Pointe’s Kercheval Avenue Saturday. … ‘the elimination of human inequalities and injustices is our urgent and critical domestic problem,’ the governor said. … [Detroit NAACP President Edward M.] Turner told reporters, ‘I think it is very significant that Governor Romney is here. We are very surprised.’ Romney said, ‘If they want me to lead the parade, I’ll be glad to.’” (”Romney Joins Protest March Of 500 In Grosse Pointe,” Detroit Free Press, 6/29/63)
By Freedom for All on 12/20/2007 at 6:23:34
Was it all a dream?
Didn't Al Gore invent the Internet? Wow... and now Mr. Romney.... yep, he marched with Mr. King.
By Another Revisionist Historian on 12/20/2007 at 11:37:14
Was it all a dream?
Poor, poor journalism. At least four books state that Romney and MLK did indeed march together...see: // Don't journalists research anymore?
By OC on 12/21/2007 at 6:11:37
Was it all a dream?
I am now very anxious to see the Pheonix response!
By John Amy on 12/21/2007 at 8:44:33
Was it all a dream?
For the real scoop on George Romney's great support and actual march with MLK, see: //
By macfan1950 on 12/21/2007 at 11:10:36
Was it all a dream?
Hmmm, two blogs, one apparently connected to Romney in some way, aren't exactly credible sources for dispute...
By ireadlots on 12/21/2007 at 11:24:48
Was it all a dream?
ireadlots...Yes, they are blogs, but several references are quoted and cited in the blog post.
By macfan1950 on 12/21/2007 at 1:20:30
Was it all a dream?
TIME FOR A RETRACTION FROM THE PHOENIX! Harper's Magazine 1967 article by William V. Shannon. pg 60. // "When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King marched in Detroit three years ago, Romney marched with him. He is proud that he helped write a state constitution that has the most comprehensive civil-rights guarantees in the nation, including open occupancy in housing." Clearly, Mitt may be remembering what his father told him: unless you think this is a family conspiracy.
By anonymousguy on 12/21/2007 at 3:38:43
Was it all a dream?
Your assertion: "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. " is PROVEN wrong- based on the Harper's Article.
By anonymousguy on 12/21/2007 at 4:04:22
Was it all a dream?
looks like mitt's pop was as good at beefing up the truth as his boy! if he was such a great civil rights hero where was he for the march on washington? lying about his father aside, why would anyone in their right mind really want this guy as president? really. is it that the truth offends those who have a poor handle on it? he's another imbecile like bush. why do so many people find comfort in electing imbeciles into the office? every wednesday night, take a walk to the library and find a good, enriching book written by someone with a couple degrees. in a year, maybe you'll start voting more responsibly.
By motormanmark on 12/21/2007 at 5:34:29
Was it all a dream?
You updated the article but you still refuse to acknowledge that that Harper article puts the claim of the march on George Romney or Shannon and not Mitt Romney. Clearly, George Romney was aware of the claim if Shannon made it in the article. The article was published in a national magazine while both Romney and King were very much alive and national figures. If it was inaccurate in a manner that was important, then why did it not become an issue when the Harper Magazine came out?
By anonymousguy on 12/21/2007 at 7:37:16
Was it all a dream?
because king wasn't a saint then, and people weren't trying to hook themselves up with him. is there any point at which a romney fan will refuse to gulp down the pap he serves? or do they just keep nodding and grinning through every contortion and jerk like one of them bumper-car monkeys under the christmas tree?
By motormanmark on 12/21/2007 at 8:15:22
Was it all a dream?
A little rush to judgement...don't you think? Everyone is so eager to downgrade Mr. Romney,what are they afraid of? Here are two witnesses below. I'm sure there are a lot more. 1)Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window. With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade. “They were hand in hand,” recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. “They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else’s.” 2)Another witness, Ashby Richardson, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account. “I’m just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn’t happen,” Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. “The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.” YOU CAN FIND THESE TWO WITNESSES AT:
By JonH on 12/22/2007 at 3:47:13
Was it all a dream?
For those that want to review the Harper's reference, but do not want to pay for a subscription to Harper's: //
By anonymousguy on 12/22/2007 at 9:29:29
Was it all a dream?
RETRACT AND APOLOGIZE FOR BAD REPORTING!! For those who question Mitt Romney's words, please read below. And it is entirely possible that there were television news stories showing George Romney and Dr. King marching. I lived in Michigan at the time and I may have seen it on the news or in a newspaper photo. How about we all search for truth before we jump to conclusions? And the "media" needs to stop being so lazy and start getting FACTS. 1963 Detroit Free Press: "With Gov. Romney a surprise arrival and marching in the front row, more than 500 Negroes and whites staged a peaceful antidiscrimination parade up Grosse Pointe's Kercheval Avenue Saturday. … 'the elimination of human inequalities and injustices is our urgent and critical domestic problem,' the governor said. … [Detroit NAACP President Edward M.] Turner told reporters, 'I think it is very significant that Governor Romney is here. We are very surprised.' Romney said, 'If they want me to lead the parade, I'll be glad to.'" ("Romney Joins Protest March Of 500 In Grosse Pointe," Detroit Free Press, 6/29/63)
By Mac on 12/22/2007 at 10:33:03
Was it all a dream?
Here are two witnesses below. I'm sure there are a lot more. 1)Harry Brady Basore, 102, says she was sitting in Mr. Romney's father's lap eating pumpkin seds when the parade with Dr. King passed by. "Then, the governor said: 'Hey! Is that my butler that's in the 3rd row?!'--with more'n a bit o' consternation." 2)Another witness, Greg Houdini, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account. “I was sittin' there in the barroom with Governor Romney (we was experimenting with lap-sitting at the time) when all'sudden, he pipes up: 'Hey! Is that my chauffer out there marchin' with that whatshisname civil rights guy!? Why I aughtta...!' His werds jes' trailed off." YOU CAN FIND THESE TWO WITNESSES AT: www.mitt's a
By motormanmark on 12/23/2007 at 2:19:10
Was it all a dream?
Ahh, humorous. Make a garbage joke when you don't have the facts. The Phoenix implied that George Romney never publically said he marched with King leaving the clear insinuation that Mitt made it up. The Harper's article unequivically shows that George knew about the claim in 1967. Mitt was man enough to retract his embellishments: why aren't you calling for the Phoenix to retract their false insunuations? Is it because you expect more from Mitt than you do from the Phoenix?
By anonymousguy on 12/23/2007 at 4:40:12
Was it all a dream?
no, it is because mitt romney is an imbecile, and now that george bush et al have turned this country into some herbert-hoover-dream-walking, stalinesque nightmare state we need someone to rescue the world. if it does turn out to be a (worst-case scenario) republican, i would like to see the guy has some brains (i guess that would be a choice between mccain and... uh, i dunno.) if it must be a mormon, choose one at random, and you'll probably get a character with more dignity.
By motormanmark on 12/23/2007 at 5:19:07
Was it all a dream?
So if a rag is talking about someone you believe to be an imbecile, then you feel that the rag does not have to keep with journalistic ethics. Thanks for clearing that up. Peace.
By anonymousguy on 12/23/2007 at 11:27:17
Was it all a dream?
noooo. the guy wrote a solid article. which is why he is not retracting. the times even picked it up (but cheated this guy out of his credit.) geez, when i heard mitt say that on my mp3 of meet the press (and his little pause just before he said it,) i thought it sounded like an inflation of the truth--right in character with this guy. mitt's full of baloney. the arguments brought up by you mitt-o-philes were off-point. you aren't really claiming mitt's dad marched with king (after all, how could you--even mitt's people aren't making that argument.) instead, you are trying to infer it because you lack the proof. witnesses on a mitt-loving website are as much proof as anything i make up off the top of my head. harpers could refer to what happened 3 years later and err in their details, but the proof is either there or it is not. when a governor walks in a civil rights march, (especially in those days) it makes the papers--the local papers, front page. you tell me--what other news could have kept that out of the local press in that podunct grosse point place? you sound like a very nice person, and i just think you do not understand who these people are who are dishing this guy up. this guy is backed by millions of dollars. millions. there is not one word that leaves his lips that is not manipulative. if you are like any other american i know, you want a person who is going to change this country, and that is going to take, not a jabbering phony, but a real sharp tack who belongs to no one. not that any of them fit the bill, ( i would vote kucinich if pressed because i believe the US and israel have begun killing civilians murderously--that preemptive war is savagery, and that most americans have let a handful of saudi wackos turn them into blubbering cowards of the murderous leopold-loeb variety) but, at least let them fall when they expose themselves. for your kids' sake at least do that much. it might keep the democracy alive just enough for them to give it mouth-to-mouth some day.
By motormanmark on 12/25/2007 at 12:15:06
Was it all a dream?
"the guy wrote a solid article" A simple question to you: did the sentence: "But, while the late George W. Romney, a four-term governor of Michigan, can lay claim to a strong record on civil rights, 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. " leave the impression that the Phoenix writer thought Mitt was making it up? (I think the answer is clearly yes). Did the Harper's article disprove that Mitt was the one making it up? (I think again the answer is clearly yes). What are your answers to these two questions? If you agree with me on the answers, then the article needs a change to become accurate.
By anonymousguy on 12/25/2007 at 1:36:27
Was it all a dream?
No, I think the Phoenix writer was on point. If he had said, "nothing in the public record suggesting he ever did so," I'd agree with you, but he said "that he ever laid claim to do so." He did not credit Mitt with not making the story up, I would guess, because he knows politics enough to know that Mitt knows full well 1) his old man never marched with King AND 2)that there was an inaccurate story once published that floated such a myth. If the politicians all try to play games like these and the press tries to answer with less sophisticated language, the press will fail at its purpose in our society. No, when I read this type of newspaper story, I do not believe it is telling me there was never a prior inaccurate claim made, but yes, I think a less sophisticated reader may, but rather than that being the reporter's fault, I'd argue I don't want my news dumbed down, and if a reader wants to understand politics, they'd better step up to the challenge to read carefully. How would you change the article? Add in that the myth has a tail that stretches back decades in the hope that a reader will think Mitt made an honest mistake? Why try to put that impression in the reader's head? Knowing how savvy any national candidate necessarily is, I'd think its obvious he knew full well. Do you really believe he didn't? Would you have thought that had Hillary been caught in the same sling talking about her father? If so, I'd say you are an innocent. Keep observing politics, and you will lose your naivete in no time. (Or else, you are motivated for Romney because you are a Mormon, a paid campaign worker, or a volunteer worker in a leadership role. No?)
By motormanmark on 12/25/2007 at 12:09:36
Was it all a dream?
The article's implication was clear: Mitt said "he saw" his dad march with MLK, Jr. in Detroit which the Phoenix believes is a lie and the Phoenix could find no public evidence that George Romney ever said it publically. A "crime" of a lie was committed, Either George or Mitt was the true instigator of the public "lie" and that the Phoenix could not find public evidence that George was the true instigator if it is actually a lie. The Harper's article proves that if it is a lie, George was the instigator or a clear accomplice to the lie. Its not clear that if it is a lie as to when Mitt understood it to be a "lie". I would think that there would be official and unofficial written correspondences as well as FBI surveillence that could shed more light on this story. What is very clear from reading the record is that George Romney was figuratively marching with King's goal of freedom marchs from January 1963 and after. After all, Romney was the keynote speaker at the "Metropolitan Conference on Open Occupancy" in January 1963. If LBJ had not been so successful about brainwashing the American people about what was actually going on in Viet Nam, we may have never had Nixon as President. I am not Mormon and I will probably vote for McCain or Romney in the NH first in the Nation primary. I am VERY perturbed when I witness piling on insinuations that fly without evidence. E.g., I can find no evidence in the public record that you stopped beating your wife. Real Journalists should know better than to use the phrasology of vile rumor. Do you feel this type of innuendo has its place in honorably investigative reporting pieces?
By anonymousguy on 12/25/2007 at 2:48:45
Was it all a dream?
There is little if any proof that this did not happen, which is the problem. America is starting to remind me of China. The Government goes around snapping pictures to document that they did what they were supposed to do. If there is no picture, it didn't happen. Or Iraq, where photos were taken of rolling heads to document that an execution was carried out. (I have seen these photos first hand, one including three heads like rolling sage in a single photograph.) If we do not want to revert to the times of Snow White, with wicked Queens requesting hearts in boxes, we should be willing to trust someone who was told by his brother than their father marched with King, especially where there is great evidence that Romney's father was a major backer of King and where King IS documented to have returned the favor, suggesting that Governor George Romney of Michigan would make a great President. That and we have two witnesses who saw King and George march together. Who are we to malign a school teacher who joined the march herself after witnessing the two "hand in hand"?
By jmm36 on 01/23/2008 at 2:35:10

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