Tom Jackman writes in The Washington Post, “In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy, sometimes with sharply different views on how best to do that. But they are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King.”
Make unflattering factual claims about King, such as that he plagiarized his dissertation at Boston University, and expect to hear cries of “racist” and “bigot.” Painting King’s killer as a victim strangely does not disqualify one as a progressive in good standing.
A low-rent racist killed Martin Luther King. But a small fry killing a big cheese never sits well—hence, conspiracy theories. Beyond this, political self-flattery motivates this mindset. A Communist killed John Kennedy and a Black Muslim killed Malcolm X. This proved terribly inconvenient. So, Communists and Black Muslims devised intricate conspiracy theories—right away—to make it seem that powerful, nefarious forces killed the president and the preacher. This pattern holds true for the assassination that occurred 50 years ago today.
James Earl Ray bought the rifle that killed Martin Luther King. The authorities found Ray’s fingerprints on the weapon. Ray confessed to the murder. But the escaped convict with a lengthy criminal record did not make for a villain straight out of central casting (even if he appeared exactly like the guy who might kill a Martin Luther King).
So, J. Edgar Hoover killed MLK. Some dude named Raul from Montreal killed MLK. A grocer with mafia connections called Frank Liberto killed MLK. Everybody but the guy who killed MLK killed MLK.
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