Shaidle Unchained

Martin Luther King, Pussy Grabber

October 18, 2016

Multiple Pages
Martin Luther King, Pussy Grabber

On the recording, surreptitiously made in Los Angeles, the subject can be heard:

* giving his friends lewd nicknames
* delivering a lengthy monologue larded with bawdy and even blasphemous puns
* joking about the bedroom behavior of a beloved Democratic president and his wife

A firsthand (and hostile) observer has described the subject as given to “orgiastic and adulterous escapades,” who “could be bestial in his sexual abuse of women.”

Another party (a sympathetic one) recalls his friend giving another one of his famously stirring speeches, then passing the evening with two different women; when a third showed up and picked a fight, the subject struck her.

The subject is a household name, a powerful yet divisive man with millions of admirers, many of whom are aware of his moral shortcomings and continue to revere him in spite of them all.

Our subject is not Bill Clinton.

He is not even Donald Trump.

“Not even Ann Coulter included one of the biggest names of all. You know, the guy with his own national holiday.”

He is—or was—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

After the release of the “pussy tape,” and the subsequent rash of sexual-something-or-other accusations against Trump by various females, his defenders reflexively responded with pointed reminders that various liberal figureheads—from the Kennedys to Clinton—haven’t exactly been paragons of chastity.

But not even Ann Coulter, on her own (dirty) laundry list last week, included one of the biggest names of all. You know, the guy with his own national holiday.

Coulter has always been admirably loyal to the late Sam Francis, a columnist whose candor made him persona non grata in the Conservative Movement. And it was from Francis that I first learned, 15 years ago, about these hair-raising allegations against King: Christian pastor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, civil rights leader, and American icon.

Except “allegations” isn’t quite the mot juste, because that word carries a strong odor of gossip and inaccuracy. And King’s sexual misconduct has not only been testified to by former assistant director of the FBI Charles D. Brennan, but has also been relayed matter-of-factly by respectable liberal historians like David Garrow.

During the Senate’s 1983 debate on whether or not to inaugurate the King holiday, Brennan asserted that his evidence included a “great quantity” of “transcripts, recordings, photos and logs” that had been “labeled ‘obscene.’” That material had been sealed by court order until 2027, and the Senate itself was denied access.

However, Professor Garrow—whose third book about King won the Pulitzer Prize, and who served as a senior adviser on the highly regarded Eyes on the Prize documentary series—seems to have somehow gotten past that seal. He asserts that this material includes (these are Garrow’s words):

...a long and extremely funny storytelling session during which King
(a) bestowed supposedly honorific titles or appointments of an explicitly sexual nature on some of his friends,
(b) engaged in an extended dialogue of double-entendre phrases that had sexual as well as religious connotations, and
(c) told an explicit joke about the rumored sexual practices of recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy, with reference to both Mrs. Kennedy, and the President’s funeral.

Reverend King’s reputation as a crude serial womanizer was further confirmed by his right-hand man Ralph Abernathy, in his memoir And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. (Which in turn led to his Stalin-esque erasure from the history of the civil rights movement.)

Undaunted by the blowback, Abernathy explained his friend’s behavior in terms that may sound familiar:

During the last ten years of his life, Martin Luther King was the most important black man in America. That fact alone endowed him with an aura of power and greatness that women found very appealing.

The FBI famously sent King a crass and clumsy letter, alerting him to the existence of all this sordid, damning evidence and advising him to commit suicide to avoid disgrace. At the same time, the Bureau also tried repeatedly to interest reporters in King’s activities, and failed.

A few years ago, The New York Times mused on this particular chapter in history: “Today it is almost impossible to imagine the press refusing a juicy story.”

The same piece winds up with a throwaway line that I’ll end on as well. I presume no additional comment is necessary, and that at this juncture, we could all use a good laugh:

The current F.B.I. director, James Comey, keeps a copy of the King wiretap request on his desk as a reminder of the bureau’s capacity to do wrong.

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