Posted on June 6, 2019

NY Times Deflects MLK ‘Rape’ Bombshell by Personally Attacking the Historian, FBI

Clay Waters, NewsBusters, June 5, 2019

The New York Times suddenly distrusts left-wing scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Luther King Jr. biographer David Garrow. Why? Because the scholar unearthed F.B.I archives suggesting the civil rights icon once laughed along as a colleague raped a woman in his presence in a hotel.

Garrow’s bombshell piece was rejected by many news outlets, including the Times (which actually ran an pre-emptive op-ed against it, evidently before the paper’s skeptical news piece was even posted). It was eventually picked up by the British magazine Standpoint.


Times reporter Jennifer Schuessler’s piece made the front of Wednesday’s Arts section, a petulant questioning of Garrow’s scholarship: “His Martin Luther King Biography Was a Classic. His Latest King Piece Is Causing a Furor — David Garrow found F.B.I. documents alleging King stood by during a rape. But some scholars question whether to trust records created as part of a smear campaign.”

Schuessler’s take is a fascinating throwback to that pre-Trump era when the Times distrusted the FBI, unlike today, when it reliably comes to the domestic surveillance bureau’s defense when investigating Trump.


Schuessler was allergic to the allegations against the liberal civil rights icon:

As for his claim that Dr. King was an enthusiastic witness to an alleged rape, it rests on a single paragraph in an F.B.I. summary of what supposedly took place in January 1964 in a Washington hotel room where King was staying. There, according to the summary, another minister (now deceased) and unspecified other men discussed which of the “several women ‘parishioners’” brought to the room by the minister would be “suitable for natural and unnatural acts.” After one of the women objected, the other minister “immediately and forcibly raped her.”

Mr. Garrow also quotes a handwritten annotation in the margin that reads: “King looked on, laughed and offered advice.”

Some historians have strongly criticized Mr. Garrow for hanging an explosive allegation on an anonymous handwritten annotation….

Mr. Garrow said he believed the typed summary, and the handwritten addition, were based on the actual contents of the tapes, rather than an embellishment. Citing a passage in his 1981 book about the F.B.I., he noted that he first heard hints of an alleged assault around 1980, when he interviewed several Justice Department lawyers who he said had heard the tapes.


Schuessler was concerned the right wing would seize on his findings:

Other scholars also criticized what they called the sensationalized presentation of the claims, which were quickly seized on by the conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who called Dr. King “quite a sicko,” and by social media trolls suggesting statues of him should be taken down.

It’s understandable that those who admire Martin Luther King Jr. would want to shield him from such awful allegations, especially in a racially sensitive #MeToo era where statues are indeed removed and names taken off schools and street signs. But the paper’s feverish, blame-the-messenger response would seem to fall outside the bounds of objective scrutiny of a historical figure.

Garrow’s stock has fallen at the paper as his biographies have become more critical of liberal heroes. {snip}