April 5th, 2008
10:01 AM ET
4 years ago

McCain says he was wrong to oppose MLK day

ALT TEXT

McCain marked the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's death Friday. (AP Photo)

(CNN) - Speaking at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, John McCain said Friday he was wrong to initially oppose a government holiday in memory of the civil rights leader.

"We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King," McCain said during the rainy Memphis speech. "I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona. We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans."

The comments were met with audible boos in the audience, though the Arizona senator did draw applause at other moments in the speech.

McCain, then a first-term congressman, voted against creating a government holiday for King in 1983. On Thursday, he suggested he was unaware of King's legacy at the time.

"I voted in my first year in Congress against it and then I began to learn and I studied and people talked to me," he told reporters. "And I not only supported it but I fought very hard in my home state of Arizona for recognition against a governor who was of my own party."

McCain was a chief backer of a successful 1992 Arizona ballot referendum to mark the holiday.

In 2000, McCain said of his initial opposition was due to the fact that "it cost too much money, that other presidents were not recognized.”


Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (324 Responses)
  1. Spider

    I know what MLK stands for.

    Martin Luther King.

    Did you think I didn't know that? I knew that. Silly to think I didn't know that. HRUMPH.

    April 5, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. Ernie Puto

    What a bunch of hate coming from Obama supporters.
    Kind of ironic isn't it?

    Give McCain his due, he was stuck in the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war when the country realized what a treasure it had in Martin Luther King.

    April 5, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Dale Lee

    I'm just so sick of hearing about King. I remember this past February at some black church on TV they were playing hallelujah for him. He's been raised to the ranks of a god. Sure he did some good stuff in one area of the country, but he's been raised to the status of a diety. I'm sure the media is going to start trying to convince people that they need to go to church and pray every April 4th. I'm sure the media and certain groups want April 4th to replace Christmas as the religious holiday. I see it coming......

    April 5, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Carrie PA

    It is rare for a politician to say that he/she is wrong. I give John McCain credit for it.

    April 5, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. EJ - Ohio

    wow you guys are brutal

    April 5, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. @americans

    McBush was wrong then, was wrong now

    McBush is wrong about the war and wrong on keeping the war for 100 years

    McBush is wrong for America!!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I lived in Arizona and we marched and had very large memorials in honor of MLK before Arizona gave recognition. John McCain is a flat out liar, he knew these marchs were taking place and he stood against a holiday for many years. It was not of his doing that Arizona now recognizes a MLK holiday and he deserves no credit that he is trying to proclaim.

    April 5, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Holiday Cheer

    McCain didn't know about MLK's significance in 1983? The eighties were filled with white music about good feelings, being gay and smoking pot. Hmmm, now I understand why McCain didn't know.

    April 5, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. wiscon

    Listen to all you democrats throw insults at McCain. Would MLK be proud of you for that. Try practicing what he preached.

    April 5, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  10. carolflowery

    Abraham Lincoln doesnt even have a federal holiday named after him, oh yeah his birthday is on the calendar but it's not a federal holiday, i find that even stranger, i dont really find it respectful from any of the booers either period, i mean wow, I dont even think Dr. King would have thought that was cool

    April 5, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. Matt from Texas

    If you have a Mama vote for Obama, he is the only clear choice for America, Texas for Obama!!!

    OBAMA 08'

    April 5, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Tom

    Look a McCain black people would not forget this, so tell african american why did you vote against MLK holiday are you a racism McCain. You running for president this mean so much to the black people who die to have equal opportunity in american.

    April 5, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. A CANUCK

    He is forced to apologize or he'll be called a bigot.....this isn't comig
    from the heart.

    April 5, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. David

    I have never met a rich republican that wasnt subtily a RACIST on one level or another.. they have those little black figures in front of their country clubs with those little stupid rings in the statues hand.. Go figure that one out. ..

    April 5, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. MMB

    XAVIER, There were plenty of Natives and Hispanics of dark complexion in Arizona, and they too faced discrimination. I have spoken with native Spanish speakers that suffered corporal punishment for speaking their native tongue in school. MLK was/is a symbol of fighting discrimination through positive actions. This goes beyond whatever "race" is the subject of the discourse.

    I my respect for an individual is always increased when they recognize their own faults as Mr. McCain has! If he really wants to make amends, he'd push for Ceasar Chavez's birthday to be a national holiday, but I guess that too wouldn't be financially beneficial to the big wigs.

    April 5, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. carolflowery

    ps. at least he was there

    April 5, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  17. vic nashville,Tn

    I appreciate Sen Mc Cain I don’t know why Obama keeping distance what he try to prove past one month Obama disappointing us Our Vote for Hillary if not vote for Mc Cain

    April 5, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. Grinch

    And now there is a petition on Capital Hill to not have Thanks Giving as a Holiday. This is where McCain's expertise comes in handy.

    April 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. Jack Bini

    Fine. Fine. Fine. Thanks for the apology. But what do you intend to do about carrying on Dr King's legacy if you are truly sorry. How do you intend to deal with povery among whites, blacks, hispanics etc? what do you intend to do about the incarceration rate, educational disparity among blacks (and also with other racial groups). What are your policies about equity and social justice among all races in america. Dr King would not have cared about a holiday in his name (except for the fact that it would bring attention to his cause). Enough of symbolic and empty gestures lets deal with the real issues. Kudos to Clinton for supporting King's idea of a poverty czar. But I think Obama is the real guy to take this country to the next level.

    April 5, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. Steve

    Clinton in 08!
    If not, it is all up to you Senator McCain.
    Obama will not lose the election. His radical lefty supporters and their vitriolic rhetoric against Senator Clinton will. They are as toxic to the party as their counterparts on the other side of the aisle. The number was 28% that will switch to McCain. Can't wait to see the number by the end of the summer when the media continues to shove Obama down our throats. Disgusting

    April 5, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. Bob, Florida - RFO

    California Independent April 5th, 2008 11:48 am ET
    "... but like their fearful victim of a leader, they have no patriotism."

    Today a lot of Patriotism in America is as cheap as the dollar is against most foreign currencies. It has been devalued by fear, fear of some sort of unknown, fear generated by those whom want to divide us and distract us from the truth that we face a great disparity between the rich and the almost poor then at anytime in the history of our country!

    America is a far greater force then the count patriotic songs we sing, or the sum of lapel pin flags we wear!

    I am not a light-weight American whom talks a lot of talk about duty honor and country but has never served a single day in the uniform of our great nation! The type that avoided the draft at all cost i the '60s and shudder at the mere thought of some legislators discussing a possible future draft.

    Whom of you believes that wearing a lapel pin of Old Glory is all it takes to be a good American citizen? Ever seen a North Korean .. probably not. Every North Korean is required to wear a lapel pin with the photo of their beloved leader, Kim Jung Ill over their heart!

    I am an American patriot and part of that patriotism is not following the blind or ignoring those that don't see life as we do and branding those we disagree with unpatriotic.

    I am an American patriot!

    April 5, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Stephen

    OK LISTEN UP PEOPLE OF AMERICA WHO ARE DEMOCRATS:

    IF YOU NOMINATE OBAMA FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WE WILL HAVE ANOTHER REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION.

    BE CAREFUL.

    IF YOU NOMINATE HILLARY FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WE WILL HAVE A SERIOUS CHANCE OF GETTING THE WHITE HOUSE BACK.

    THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. THIS IS USING YOUR BRAIN. I WISH THIS COUNTRY WOULD WAKE UP. HILLARY WILL FIX THINGS. HILLARY WILL GET THE JOB DONE. HILLARY WILL FIX THE ECOMONY...HILLARY WILL FIX THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS.

    EXPERIENCE MATTERS. PEOPLE OF INDIANA...PEOPLE OF NORTH CAROLINA....PEOPLE OF PENNSYLVANIA...PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THE WRONG CHOICE.

    WE CAN'T AFFORD MORE REPUBLICAN RULE. USE YOUR HEAD. VOTE FOR THE RIGHT CANDIDATE. NOT THE ONE THAT USES FLUFFY SPEECHES WITH NO AGENDA AND EXPERIENCE TO WIN YOU OVER.

    April 5, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Sarah

    Unaware of King's legacy!?!?!? Did he ever go to school or learn anything about our country?

    April 5, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Leo, Ontario Canada

    hindsight is always 20/20 isn't it???
    Now that's what one calls saying the right thing at the right time...
    100% Hipocricy at it's best...

    April 5, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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