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By Alex Johnson
Vice President Mike Pence was harshly criticized on Sunday for quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his most famous speech in defending President Donald Trump’s efforts to persuade Congress to fund construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday — a day before the federal holiday honoring King — Pence quoted a passage from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Aug. 28, 1963: “One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.'”
Speaking of King, the vice president went on: “You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union.
“That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on Congress to do — come to the table in the spirit of good faith,” Pence said. “We’ll secure our border. We’ll reopen the government, and we’ll move our nation forward, as the president said yesterday, to even a broader discussion about immigration reform in the months ahead.”
Left unnoted was that, barely a year later, in a speech in East Berlin, King specifically addressed the subject of the Berlin Wall, which divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.
“Here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no manmade barrier can obliterate that fact,” he said at St. Mary’s Church on Sept. 13, 1964.
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Reaction was swift and sharp.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s Democratic non-voting delegate to Congress, tweeted: “We can’t allow Vice President Pence to get away with cleansing the president on Martin Luther King’s birthday.”
The NAACP, which King served as an executive board member in Montgomery, Alabama, called the remarks “an insult to Dr. King’s legacy.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., likewise called Pence’s use of King’s words “beyond disgraceful.”
Meanwhile, Ibram X. Kendi, founder and director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, noted Pence’s comments and tweeted: “They ‘honor’ MLK every year by assassinating who he was.”