MLK Day Fact Check

Andrew repeats an interesting claim that I've seen all over twitter tonight: 


Chuck Todd notes that Ron Paul voted for the MLK national holiday. Gingrich voted against. I find the notion that Ron Paul is a racist to be preposterous.

Again, I make no claims about the contents of Ron Paul's heart. I've never met him, and consider such things beyond the bounds of the ultimately knowable. But Ron Paul's voting record is a different matter. 

But first here's Ron Paul on Martin Luther King Day in his newsletters:

Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.

It has been alleged that these are Lew Rockwell's words, not Ron Paul's. One would think that Rockwell would be familiar with Paul's record, as he was his longtime Chief of Staff.

But, fair enough. Let us assume that Rockwell was, indeed, in error. Paul's supporters link to his Yea vote on this 1979 bill as evidence that he supported an MLK Holiday:

TO AMEND H.R. 5461, MARTIN LUTHER KING HOLIDAY, BY DESIGNATING THE THIRD MONDAY IN JANUARY RATHER THAN JANUARY 15 AS THE LEGAL HOLIDAY.

But this actually isn't the bill for the holiday. The text doesn't even claim that. More importantly, the date is wrong. This vote was taken on December 5, 1979. The vote for the King holiday was actually taken on November 13, 1979:

The bill was called up in the House on Tuesday, November 13, 1979...When the final vote was taken, 252 Members voted for the bill and 133 against--five votes short of the two-thirds needed for passage.

I'm sorry to report that one of those Nay votes, as you can see here, was cast by one Ronald Paul. I'm sorry to further report that Paul again voted no on the 1983 bill that passed.

If we are to take the version of events proffered by Ron Paul's defenders, the Congressmen voted for a holiday which his Chief of Staff publicly denounced as "Hate Whitey Day." In Ron Paul's own name, no less. This version of events should inspire skepticism even in a Paul admirer. I am happy to report that in some, it did.  

I want to reiterate--again--that I make no claims on the heart of Ron Paul. How he truly feels about black people is best left to Paul and his conscience. His actual record, however, is wholly subject to the wiles of google.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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