Steve Bannon said that Martin Luther King Jr. “would be proud” of Donald Trump. Umm, what?
In predictable, reality-bending fashion, Trump’s former strategist and adviser Steve Bannon made a bold claim about how King would feel about Trump’s performance thus far in his presidency. Speaking to BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, he said, “If you look at the policies of Donald Trump, anybody ... Martin Luther King would be proud of him, of what he’s done for the black and Hispanic community for jobs.”
Martin Luther King "would be proud of" Donald Trump. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon insists… https://t.co/7TSuY3OlrP— BBC Newsnight (@BBC Newsnight) 1527076974
Maitlis clarified — somehow with a straight face — “You think Martin Luther King would be proud of Donald Trump as president?”
Bafflingly, Bannon charged straight ahead:
“You don’t think Martin Luther King would be proud? Look at the unemployment we had in the black community five years ago. You don’t think Martin Luther King would sit there and go ‘Yes, you’re putting young black men and women to work. There’s the lowest unemployment we’ve had in history. And wages are starting to rise among the working class. And you’ve finally stopped the illegal alien labor forces coming in and competing with them every day, and destroying the schools and destroying the healthcare.’ Absolutely.”
Before we get to what King’s daughter had to say about that, let’s quickly review those unemployment numbers.
Indeed, the black unemployment rate is the lowest it’s ever been. But that rate has been dropping steadily since the middle of Obama’s term as president. Bannon specifies the change in the rate from five years ago, but neglects to acknowledge that the vast majority of that drop happened under Obama.
Here's the government's own Bureau of Labor Statistics chart for black unemployment since 2008:
[rebelmouse-image 19533368 dam="1" original_size="600x300" caption="Black unemployment rate in the U.S. Graph via Bureau of Labor Statistics." expand=1]Black unemployment rate in the U.S. Graph via Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The same goes for Hispanic unemployment. Yes, it's the lowest it's been in 25 years, but it's also been steadily dropping since 2011:
[rebelmouse-image 19533369 dam="1" original_size="600x300" caption="Hispanic or Latino unemployment rate in the U.S. Graph via Bureau of Labor Statistics." expand=1]Hispanic or Latino unemployment rate in the U.S. Graph via Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Trump’s policies have not created some kind of dramatic turnaround in unemployment — the trend is simply continuing. There have been no miracles performed here, unless you consider riding on someone’s economic coattails a miracle.
Now, on to King's response.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice shut Bannon down — real quick.
Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s youngest child, reacted to Bannon's interview, and let's just say she's not having it.
Bernice King shared this image on Twitter the morning after Bannon's interview. I imagine that's exactly the face she made when she saw it. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
"#SteveBannon has dangerously and erroneously co-opted my father's name, work and words," King wrote on Twitter. "Bannon's assertion that my father, #MLK would be proud of Donald Trump wholly ignores Daddy's commitment to people of all races, nationalities, etc. being treated with dignity and respect."
She then explained how her "father's concerns were not sectional, but global."
Setting the record straight on what her father actually would and wouldn't do, King wrote, "Further, he would not refer to people as 'illegal aliens.' The term is degrading and does not reflect his belief that we are all a part of the human family." She added that he'd never pit one group against another.
But she wasn't done. She called Bannon's comments "empty calories," and explained how her father would be "extremely disturbed" by the current political climate that emboldens people to "easily express and demonstrate cruelty, predominantly toward people of color and immigrants."
King capped off her commentary with how her father would actually view those unemployment numbers:
Well, there you have it, Mr. Bannon.
People of all political stripes try to mold Martin Luther King Jr. to fit their agenda. It's a problem.
While usually more subtle and less blatantly ridiculous than Bannon's assertions, people often choose small pieces of King's message to suit their narrative. But such simplification dishonors the man and his accomplishments. At the core, King was a radical humanitarian. He championed not only the black American, but the poor person, the immigrant, and every human being experiencing oppression and injustice.
Thank goodness for Bernice King's perspective in the age of cherry-picking MLK quotes and whitewashing his legacy. We need to keep defending truth and shut down those who try to bend reality to justify prejudice and fear-mongering.