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

McCain says he was wrong to oppose MLK day


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. Reality


    April 4, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  2. pw

    He was not aware of King's legacy in 1983! If this guy is President, we are in for some serious trouble. God help us.

    April 4, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. Judd

    i love that he claims he didn't realize MLK's legacy. where were you educated? how did you ever become a congressmen? how and why are you running for president? you didn't know who MLK was? what an idiot!

    April 4, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  4. Hate-mongers and bigots...

    please, quit posting on this blog. Let us honor Mr. King by keeping the dialogue civil. I do believe people can have a change of heart. I won't be voting for McSame, but I do feel people can change. Now, as for his initial judgement (what matters as prez) on the matter, well....

    April 4, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. SUE, Michigan

    Is he really as dumb as he sounds? I was 15 when MLK was shot, and I knew about him and the movement. I cried at the injustices I saw on TV, and even at my own school. What in the heck was he doing in the 60's not to be aware of what MLK stood for? Methinks he just helped the Democrats...again.

    April 4, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. Lydia

    Ignorance is not an excuse. If a national holiday was being proposed, it didn't prick his mind to do some preliminary research to determine the measure of the man being considered for such an honor? And he wants to be president of the United States?!

    April 4, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. D

    I did not know you voted against it in the past.

    You lost this Republican AA's vote.

    Today- you think that you are wrong because you are running for President.

    April 4, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Tim Burgess - in CA

    Honesty – how refreshing. I'd rather see a politician step up and say "I was wrong" than all of the logic-defying rationalizations that we normally see. Rather than avoid or ignore the issue, McCain at least has the intestinal fortitude to stand up and admit his mistakes while pointing out that he not only changed his mind twenty+ years ago, but did so in a way to overcome the initial mistake.

    Go John Go! McCain '08!

    April 4, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  9. GL

    In the words of Public Enemy-
    Flat out racist
    Simple & Plain
    Mother___ him
    and John Wayne.

    April 4, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. dan

    Let's face it. McCain is an idiot. Enough said.

    April 4, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  11. Marc

    It just shows what type of a person you are McCain. I would not vote for you if my life was on the line. You are bad for America, and minorities would not stand a chance in this great country. We still have problems where States will not accept MLK day and still hold the Confederate Flag in support for hatred. We need new blood in the White House and we need it fast. For a country to be so great, we really hate each other.

    Obama 08

    April 4, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  12. vp

    Abolish all Holidays. No exceptions.

    BTW 80,000 people just got an extented holiday lasy month. How many are for this month?

    April 4, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. Gary

    This is almost as stupid as back in '92 when a certain presidential candidate said, "...But, I didn't inhale".

    April 4, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. Chuck in Oregon

    At least he has the back bone to admit he was wrong unlike some other candidate that dodged snipper bullets in Bosnia and makes a joke about it afterwards (what a slap in the face to those that fought and continue to fight for our freedom). Sorry but that still torques my jaw.

    April 4, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. Char

    He didn't want to support a MLK holiday 20 years ago because he didn't want another national holiday based on a public figure. He was hoping the society can celebrate more of those unknown heros like......single mother's day or single father's day or grandparents raising grandchildren day or vonlunteer for the needy day....things such as that. The faceless, voiceless and unknown heros that no one ever talk about. Now, one of those holidays are what Mccain would have gone for.

    April 4, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. Tim

    McBush and Billary are looking for votes, and that's the only reason why they're in Memphis. We all know that.

    April 4, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. Chief lagosboyNJ

    Go away Grandpa, 100 years in Iraq…..are you crazy or are you on Crack? Once we get rid of that pathological liar Hillary, then we will focus all our money and resources on you. You have no clue on how to run the economy.

    Our President Obama 08 & 12!

    April 4, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  18. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    Is this a flip-flop, or is McCain slow to catch on, or is he just pandering for votes?

    April 4, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  19. Josh

    Well theres another bad decision by McCain. So in time, he will be saying the same thing about Iraq. Oh, I made a mistake, sorry!
    What a joke he is.

    April 4, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |

    HIs legacy is that he is an adulterer!!! SO why would you honor someone like tha? Double standards isn't it you Obama supporters? King gets a Legacy!!!. Bill is called a Liar!! I just love you people's sense of justice. O.J. Was innocent too, wasn't he? Obama will never be President> This one you can put in the books.

    April 4, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    While I find it incredulous for a grown man to say that he was unaware of Dr. King's legacy back in 1983, I can at least respect the fact that he owned up to his error. I am more interested in what he has been doing since then to fight for those who may not be able to fight for themselves. I find his record even more dismal in this regards.

    April 4, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  22. A Non Ymous

    The legacy of Bush continues...lights on, nobody's home.

    April 4, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. Tracy

    Yea right!!!!!!!!

    April 4, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. Obama Supporter

    At least he can apologize when he is wrong – and this is a pretty big blunder. HRC doesn't ever apologize when she's wrong, it seems.

    April 4, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. Samantha

    What else is supposed to say? Standing where MLK was shot of course he says he was wrong. If he says anything else he loses all his moderate support.

    By the way, where is lapel pin? Is he unpatriotic because he decided not wear a pin? Let's not be hypocrites, what's good for one is good for another.

    April 4, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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