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. jobblyman

    Nicely done. If no Hillary then you'll have my vote. No shame in admitting your wrong.

    April 5, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Will

    MLK was a communist and an unfaithful husband. No wonder the Clintonistas love him so much.

    April 5, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. H. D. Schmit, Loma Linda, Ca.

    There is a true flip flabber if there ever was one! If this guy should become president, God help us? He most certainly will take us into WWIII, but if not a shooting war, a new cold war that will make the previous one look like peanuts. Yes, Ron Paul the only true American speaking for this nation within the spirit is was give birth so long ago, but truly berated by the Republican party, in as much as it is so in love with Imperialism making previous Empires pale by comparison.

    April 5, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  4. Kathryn

    I have never seen so much hate... so many people in this country want to hang on to the idea of racism. Younger generations view all of these hateful comments as simply devicive and ignorant. Apology accepted Mr. McCain. Now people, let's move on and quit living in the past.

    April 5, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  5. american Man

    whats next a malcom x day he did just as much for cival rights , then lets have an eldrige cleaver day , then a huey newton day , then a jessie jackson day , lets just fill the calander with holidays .

    THE FACT is we should celebrat DR. King everyday for what he has done to try to improve race relations . and as far as black history goes
    i think black history month is a joke . Black history should be celebrated year round .

    Americas real problem is everything is made in china , but people have the nerve to say we should boycott the games there LMAO, yea boycott the games while they make all our goods .

    WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CONTRDICTION AMERICA

    April 5, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  6. AzGuy

    McCain should take a step back and learn to put himself in others shoes. He admits he was wrong about MLK Jr. Day now, but it took 10 years for him to be able to understand his error - something that is easily understandable in a 10 minute conversation. What other basics does he not understand? How long will it take for him to re-examine his bias against gays and lesbians? He took the time and made the effort to create a commercial against gay marriage in Arizona when it is already illegal here. Arizonans voted against the constitutional ammendment. In my opinion, he really needs to re-examine his biases and decide if he wants to represent all the people or just the portion with whom he relates to.

    April 5, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. Matt from Texas

    McCain will lose the November election bc of the Recession and the Unpopular Iraq War. Obama will win the Nomination, he will select Clinton as his VP and then win the November Election making him the First African American President!!!

    OBAMA/CLINTON 08

    April 5, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. A schoolmate USNA

    As president, sir, you will not have the luxury of being "late...in doing the right thing." Quoting you:
    "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,"
    This is just another example of your being for, then being against, then being for – just when are you going to take definitive stands?
    The GOP was right in rejecting you in 2000 and now they are wrong to support you – but you wouldn't have that support without having sucked up to the right wing as you have done.
    You are a past hero, sure – but now you are just pathetic.

    April 5, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  9. Mary Ellen

    Does McCain expect us to believe that he didn't know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nearly 15 years after his death and that's why he didn't vote for the holiday the first time? Wouldn't it have been an intelligent decision to research King rather vote against the holiday?

    April 5, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. Jeff Dee

    MLK was a "leader" in a very small region of the US. How he came to represent all blacks is a mystery. The north never had slavery (even though everyone thinks they did nowadays) and the north never had segregation. People say, "had it not been for MLK, blacks would still be at the back of a bus." However, that never existed in the US except in Alabama. So to give him credit for saving all blacks is just beyond me. He helped a small group of blacks in a small area of the US. Segregation never happened in Chicago, Detroit, NYC, Los Angeles. So pretend the whole US was this racist, segregationist nation untill MLK came along.

    April 5, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. Hillary

    Why is there a black man holding an umbrella for McCain?

    April 5, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Sharon Minnesota

    So. A lot of people felt that way at the time.

    April 5, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Sherri

    The man fought for our country, was a prisoner of war. Booing him.... what is that?, you should salute the man! there is no booing!

    April 5, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Charles

    To the rich:
    To most peopl who are rich, doing significant things to help get the poor out of poverty "costs too much".

    To the privileged:
    To most people who have freedom, rights and privilege, everyone who demands that same freedom is considered an animal, a savage, a trouble maker, less than human. Ask Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics.

    Mccain and most other Republicans detest the poor. To them the poor are only to be helped through pihlanthropic donations to the "Arts" and the building of Presidential Libraries. What Waste. May their wealth and privilege die witht them.

    April 5, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. Lilarose in Oregon

    Just think!

    If you just found out you are pregnant, this election will FINALLY be over about the time you deliver!

    Looking forward to a long and miserable pregnancy?

    We will all be suffering at the same time!

    April 5, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Susan MO

    Umm........now he thinks about that, running for president.

    GO CLINTON

    April 5, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. colvinatch

    How convenient.

    April 5, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Tanya K

    Some people change.

    April 5, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Bob, Florida - RFO

    McCain is a man of honor!

    Yes he got booed but so did GWB at the Washington Nationals baseball game.

    Opposing MLK Day should not be viewed as some sort of litmus test to measure whether someone believes i the preaching of Martin Luther King.

    Go Barack '08 else McCain but ditch the Clintons!

    April 5, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Hillary

    Go Hillary. She would make the best president but that has nothing to do with it. The ignorant American public votes for whoever they would like to sit down and have a beer with or go to a barbecue. You deserve what you get. Look at the past seven years. What a disgrace.

    April 5, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. Franky

    You know, this is why I respect McCain more than Hillary. And NO, is not because I like McCain more than Hillary, well, maybe a little but that's not the point. The point is that Senator McCain is doing his thang, his honest and responsible. At least he admits his faults, but what about Hillary?? Ohh wait a minute, she tells jokes instead so it all makes sense...

    Believe it or not guys, McCain is a good guy, it all depends how you view him. I personally don't got anything against him because he understands what he has to do.......

    April 5, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. Matt from Texas

    John McCain Sucks!! Vote for Barack Obama in the Fall!

    April 5, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. Anon

    YOU CELEBRATED COLOMBUS DAY FOR YEARS FOR FINDING AMERICA, YET AMERICAN INDIANS WERE THE NATIVES OF NORTH AMERICA...DOUBLE STANDARD!
    MCCAIN IS FORGIVEN...ATLEAST HE ADMITTED THAT HE WAS WRONG.

    REV. WRIGHT WAS ALSO HONORED FOR EXCELLENT BEDSIDE TREATMENT OF PRESIDENT NIXON BUT NOBODY HAS EVER MENTIONED IT. HE WAS A MEDICAL TECHNICIAN IN THE MARINES OR NAVY...SERVED THIS COUNTRY BUT HE CAN ALSO BE FORGIVEN.

    DICK CHENEY VOTED AGAINST THE RELEASE OF NELSON MANDELA AFTER 27 YEARS IN JAIL...BET YOU IF HE ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS NOW, IT WOULD BE ACCEPTED, TOO.

    RACE BECOMES AN ISSUE B/C OF AMERICAN HISTORY. RACE IS THE WORST THING THAN ANYTHING I KNOW...NOT GENDER, AGE, ETHNICITY!

    OVERALL, IT IS GOOD TO FORGIVE B/C WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES BUT, BUT WE, WE CAN NOT AND MUST, MUST NOT FORGET FORGET!!!!!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Sharon Minnesota

    It's becoming more and more apparent that Obama supporters are the largest group of haters in our country. Very revealing of their souls in these blogs. McCain or Clinton in 08 will be a must to save us from these tortured souls.

    April 5, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. kevin

    You know I was really thinking of not voting at all if Hillary is not the Dem nominee. If Obama is, I am definitely voting for Mac.

    HILLARY or McCAIN only!!!

    April 5, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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