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. Norisha

    you are one of those Republicans that are always wrong!!! I can't wait for the debate against OBAMA...... He's gonna make you wish you stayed home with all your mistakes you've made!

    April 4, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. boobah

    Flip-flop

    April 4, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  3. Chantal From Hampton

    I Admire Senator McCain for speaking honestly. It's refreshing to have a candidate who is able to say: I was wrong. McCain is an American Hero.

    April 4, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. black voter

    Good thing he apologizeds now...oh, while Running for President. You are truley forgiven by all minorities and women.

    Vote Mcdummy 08!!!

    April 4, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Teresa

    Yes, it was wrong for you not to reference MLK and not forgotten that you opposed it.

    April 4, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  6. kathleen

    Keep on booing. He is only sorry when he gets caught. He had
    "years' to make amends. And now he wants your vote. What a phony.

    Obama

    April 4, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Pat, UC Davis

    I am an Obama supporter and a skeptic, and I often have trouble believing the sincerity of Clinton and McCain, but it was pretty awesome of him to admit he was wrong in voting down the MLK holiday measure... at least that's a step further than Clinton, who wouldn't admit to making a mistake in voting for Iraq... and even if he's pandering to get votes, the words are what will get recorded in transcripts and history books, so it is out there and he will be judged by those words.

    Right on, McCain. You won't have my vote, but... right on.

    As always, I urge everyone else to remain positive, while I try to stifle the pessimism I feel about whether it will ever be that way.

    April 4, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. Diego

    Not aware of King's legacy in 1983? I guess a 47 year old man who lived his 30s during the civil rights movement wouldn't know anything about MLK. That's worse than Hillary's excuse for the oopsie on sniper fire in Bosnia?

    In 1992 he supports a referendum in Arizona, so it took him 9 years to realize he was wrong. Will it take him 9 years to realize a continuation of Bush politics is wrong too?

    April 4, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. Doug

    What a strange story.

    April 4, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  10. Phillip from Little Rock

    How convenient, that he's now admitting he was wrong. Arizona has consistently been a racist state, not that McCain is, but its policies are. Only because he's running for President. He ditched Bush like a $2 trick and only now is he repudiating some of the ill-mannered ideals of that washout, no-good piece of crap Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan who opposed MLK's Birthday being a National Holiday, and McCain was his lackey, like a lap dog lapping at the kool-aid.

    You should pick your heroes a little more careful there, son.

    April 4, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  11. Xavier, Washington, DC

    "Look, black equality and issues like that just weren't important in Arizona. I mean, how many coloreds can there possibly be in Arizona? If I knew then that I would need black votes, of course I would have voted for the King holiday."

    April 4, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. Chrostopher

    What a (Can I curse in this thread?) Ok, you get the pitcure. He can "SAY" he was wrong to oppose King Day all he want's... Frankly he just wants in the White House... I think that I am going to oppose him that option!

    April 4, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. Maybe race is the issue....

    I find it more than strange that after screaming race every 5 min in this campain when it benifits him, Barack Obama did not see fit to go to Memphis today. Very strange to me.

    April 4, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  14. ALBO

    It is a CREDIT for McCain to admit that a long ago vote was wrong, instead to lie or try to go around it.

    The "Boos" show that racism is still not dead. But it is severely injured !!

    ALBO

    April 4, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  15. sophia nyc

    "a little late sometimes in doing the right thing"

    Like not invading sovereign nations? Oh, you hae yet to realize your mistake.

    April 4, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. Sol

    McCain seems to be dishonest about this. In 2000 he said, "it cost too much money, that other presidents were not recognized.” and now he is flip flopping on his statement by saying he was unaware of the legacy until 1983. I find it hard to believe that he was 'unaware' given the national attention on King and the Civil Rights Movement.

    April 4, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  17. Thomas, LA

    Gee, awfully big of him.

    Next he'll say that whole slavery was an error in judgement too.

    Opps! My bad...

    April 4, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  18. True American

    "On Thursday, he suggested he was unaware of King's legacy at the time."

    In November, we will be unaware of his presidental candidacy at that time

    April 4, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. FELISA

    wow, in 1983 Mccain wasn't aware of King's legacy!?!
    Wow. go retire gracefully McCain. do it for your country.

    April 4, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. Kevin, Louisville, Ky

    The mark of a Good Man .....admit your mistakes ....Obama, McCain

    The mark of a Selfish person...I mis-spoke and joke abt it ...........Clinton

    April 4, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  21. mary

    Don't feel bad McCain, Obama would not even stop campaigning today to honor MLK.

    April 4, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. Tex

    Is this staement made to gain votes or was it heart felt?

    April 4, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. Robert in Toronto,ON

    McCain voted AGAINST Martin Luther King day?? It's so bad politcally, it's actually laughable. I actually feel sorry him!

    You wanna talk about "Oopsy!" Hahahaha – I'm sure this won't sling back come November to bite him in the behind.

    Wow. (To his only defense, he'd better have voted against another state-wide holiday or for sure this will be seen as racist – even if it's true or not)

    April 4, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. Paulinus, Canada

    McCain does not believe in equal rights and opportunity for all.

    April 4, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Darth Vadik, CA

    He's been wrong about how many things now?
    You know, I wouldn't trust this man to be a greeter at Wall Mart, let alone the presidency, he shouldn't be allowed within 200 miles of the whitehouse.

    April 4, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
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