Defenders of Mitt Romney are very excited about a story by the Politico’s Mike Allen reporting that two women actually saw the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Michigan Gov. George Romney marching together in Grosse Pointe in 1963. As well they should be. “I remember it vividly,” says one alleged eyewitness. “I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.”
But memories play tricks. And David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix, who broke this story on Wednesday, says contemporaneous news coverage makes it clear that while Romney was marching on behalf of King’s agenda in Grosse Pointe, King himself was hundreds of miles away, speaking at an AFL-CIO gathering at Rutgers University.
Bernstein is withering in his contempt for the Romney campaign’s dumping this stuff on the Politico, writing, “Those facts are indisputable, and quite frankly, the campaign must have known the women’s story would eventually be debunked — few people’s every daily movement has been as closely tracked and documented as King’s.”
This is not a small mistake for the Mittster. As Bernstein noted in his original story, Mitt Romney had claimed not just that his father and King had marched together, but that he had personally observed it. And in a devastating piece in the Boston Globe on Friday, Michael Levenson noted that Mitt had on at least one occasion gone quite a bit further, telling the Boston Herald in 1978, “My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.”
Nor is Washington Post columnist David Broder likely to say anything helpful to Romney. Broder co-authored a George Romney biography in the ’60s in which he reported the claim that the elder Romney and King had marched together. But here’s what the Post had to say earlier today:
The Romney campaign initially cited a 1967 book co-authored by Washington Post staff writer David S. Broder, which stated that Romney “marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit.” But the book did not provide a source for the event, and Broder told The Post that he cannot remember where he heard the information.
What an astonishing muddle the Republican presidential campaign is now in.