For the second time in as many weeks, Vice President Mike Pence refused to utter the words Black lives matter. And this time, as part of his rationale, he used the name of the Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., twisting King’s words and legacy to justify his own inaction.
On Sunday, John Dickerson of CBS News’ Face the Nation asked Pence why he won’t say that Black lives matter.
“One thing protesters would like to hear is leaders say Black lives matter. You won’t say that. Why?” Dickerson asked.
Pence then tried to connect an unproven notion that the movement stands for violence and because the vice president was such a devoted follower of the peace-driven activist, it is impossible for him to utter those words.
“All my life, I’ve been inspired by the example of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When I was in Congress, I traveled to his home church in Montgomery with Congressman John Lewis. I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday,” Pence said. “I cherish the progress that we have made toward a more perfect union for African Americans throughout our history. And I’ve aspired throughout my career to be a part of that ongoing work. It’s really a heart issue for me.”
Pence then threw in his anti-abortion beliefs as another excuse to not speak the words “Black lives matter.”
“And as a pro-life American, I also believe that all life matters, born and unborn,” Pence said.
The vice president continued by going after the movement that stands for equality and is advocating for change in order to stop racist police brutality.
“What I see in the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement is a political agenda of the radical left that would defund the police. That would tear down monuments, that would press a radical left agenda, and support calls for the kind of violence that has beset the very communities that they say that they’re advocating for,” Pence said.
Dickerson attempted to interrupt Pence’s filibuster twice and then finally asked again, “So you won’t say Black lives matter?”
To which Pence replied: “John, I really believe that all lives matter.”
It seems as though Pence has fine-tuned his answer on the subject. During an interview with a Philadelphia television station a little over a week ago on Juneteenth, Pence stumbled over the question. While the vice president refused to say Black lives matter, he did stick with his “all lives matter” refrain. But Pence never mentioned Martin Luther King Jr. as he did right away during today’s interview.
But King was a radical leftist, and Pence is wrong to suggest otherwise. And Pence, huge MLK fan, must have forgotten the reverend’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington where he said, “We can never be satisfied,” as long as Black Americans are “the victim[s] of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Or where the Civil Rights leader wrote after the Watts rebellion, “As the nation, Negro and white, trembled with outrage at police brutality in the South, police misconduct in the North was rationalized, tolerated, and usually denied.” He also called for us to fight against “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” And as we watch police hurl tear gas and rubber bullets into peaceful protesters behind riot gear and tanks, there is no question the police have been militarized.
In fact, there is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have said that Black Lives Matter. So as an alleged devotee of his, Pence should have no problem saying the words himself. But instead, he does what many conservatives do — twist King’s words and endorsement of nonviolence to condemn those who are fighting for the same things King died trying to achieve.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, followed the vice president on the program and said that Pence’s words, like other politicians, are less important, and that “they should be judged by their actions.”
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