What’s New in the Newly Found MLK Sex Tapes?

And Why Would David Garrow Pile On (Again)?

By Phillip F. Nelson

May 28, 2019

Certain to reach large audiences over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the headlines from two British tabloids – picked up by The Drudge Report and other “news” websites, “FBI tapes show Martin Luther King Jr had 40 affairs and ‘laughed’ as friend raped parishioner” – were blasted across global cyberspace on Saturday, May 25th.  This “late-breaking” news item from fifty-one years ago was merely the latest attack by MLK Jr. biographer David Garrow — not directly against Dr. King so much as his still-shattered family. 

The only “new” information contained in these frantically-written articles related to the precise number of trysts which Dr. King is alleged to have experienced and the (so-far, uncorroborated) assertion of his laughing at the rape of a lady in the same room by a fellow pastor.  Since the tape was only audio, not video, and in other accounts there were generally several people participating in these events, to what degree of certainty can we infer that it was indeed Dr. King who was laughing?  David Garrow’s credibility, or lack thereof, is suddenly at issue as one ponders these questions, including why he decided to make these unsupported assertions now and, in the process, presume that his assertions would not be questioned.  Where did he explain how he had found these documents when they are part of a cache that has been “sealed” until 2027?   How can there be so many more questions than answers to what appears to be nothing more than the basest form of “news” reports?

One can learn a lot about the character traits of people through observing their body movements, orally delivered comments and general mannerisms, including one such, called “chutzpah.”  In a 22-year-old YouTube video, “Martin Luther King’s son Dexter meets James Earl Ray, Patsy-Assassin of his father” Dexter King confronted David Garrow with certain unpleasant facts that reflect on his credibility.  This video (the URL citation is noted below) was examined at length in my book Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.?” and that analysis is contained within the excerpted narrative which follows below.  One thing becomes very clear in this video:  Garrow has a very condescending attitude about the King family’s beliefs that the federal government — Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover to be specific — had something to do with the murder of their father.

As we recap the events which became the catalyst for the murder of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, it is pertinent to contrast this latest illustration of the “Hoopla” generated by another scintillating news story related to Dr. King’s indiscretions to those of the many other actors being referenced:  John F. Kennedy’s many dalliances; Lyndon B. Johnson’s numerous mistresses (including essentially a second family with Madeleine Brown and their son Steven, in Dallas) and of course the conflicted J. Edgar Hoover’s rather mind-boggling sexual picadilloes, which were just as real as his sanctimoniousness towards others – not just King’s escapades – but anyone whose deeds became public knowledge.  In all of the cases mentioned, none of it was general public knowledge at the time, and would only become known after they had passed.  Why, then, are Dr. King’s transgressions still producing such rarified sensational headlines while the others seem to be much more settled.? Even the greater number, and far more serious, sexual assault charges leveled against Bill Clinton — ignored and undisputed by him — seem to have become “settled.”

And, speaking of Johnson and Hoover, where is the continuing outrage of what they did to Martin Luther King Jr.?

How the FBI’s Campaign to Destroy MLK Began: December, 1963

(Excerpted / re-edited from “Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.?”)

The intense surveillance of Dr. King—electronic and otherwise—was, broadly defined, of two types: (1) Salacious “entertainment” for Washington bureaucrats up to and including President Lyndon Johnson; and (2) Directed to “proving” that Dr. King was a secret communist, aided and abetted by a known communist, Stanley Levison. 

But right after the assassination of JFK the new strategy of Dr. King’s surveillance and persecution kicked in, when the FBI redirected, and fundamentally transformed, its investigation of King. As explained by author Garrow in The FBI and Martin Luther King, beginning in December, 1963, it was at that very point, as the senior officials of the FBI discussed the content of the new audio tapes they had just received, that it was decided to transition their case away from the focus on Levison and toward destroying King in the eyes of his supporters.[1]

In his attempt to question the Bureau’s motives for the change, Garrow put forth several hypotheses, but then cited their weaknesses: One, that it was simply a matter of the “intensification of hostility” previously conducted, and another that it was merely the racism of Hoover, or the FBI generally, much of that gleaned from the writings of William Sullivan, and the author David Wise.  The third possibility, and according to Garrow’s thesis the one most likely, was that it was all purely an “ideological” dilemma or the inherent “conservatism” of the Bureau, which came up against the “liberalism” of the administration and he cited Attorney General Ramsey Clark (despite the fact that he had not been named to that position until 1967) and lawyer Charles Morgan, who wrote that “it had to be ideology that made King numbers one through ten on Hoover’s personal enemies list.”[2] 

All of these listed possibilities are wide of the mark.  Since Garrow himself ruled out the first two, we’ll limit our rebuttal to the third:  The “ideological” argument fails because that did not really change with JFK’s assassination, in some ways (foreign policy is the most compelling, but not the only one) the Johnson administration became much more conservative.  In fact, it could be argued that in practically every way Johnson himself was much more conservative, at least up until that point; in the next few years, his “Great Society” program was more liberal than he had ever been, but it must be understood that that program was merely his ticket to a grand “legacy” for himself.  It was something he had planned for decades as he had stalled much of that same legislation in order to pull it off the shelf and push it through congress when the “time was right” (i.e. when he became president). 

The Medicare bill, the best illustration of that, had been sitting on the congressional shelf since at least 1945, when Truman had attempted to get it passed. To buttress the point that he had always craved the notion of his eventual legacy, Johnson even bullied George Wallace to reverse his negative image as a segregationist when he issued this challenge to him in 1965: “What do you want left when you die?” Johnson intoned. “Do you want a great big marble monument that reads, ‘George Wallace–He Built,’ or do you want a little piece of scrawny pine board that reads, ‘George Wallace–He Hated’?”[3]  Johnson’s daily mantra for decades was that he would one day become president, not just any president but one in the pantheon of “greatest presidents” which he believed to be Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt (the latter).  He wanted his own name to be added to that shortened list and would do anything to assure it would happen.

Garrow then made the stunning assertion that, “Just as the December 23 conference was the first significant event after the wiretaps went on . . .”[4] He continued on, to make the point that the only other “important development after the conference” was the bug installed in King’s room at the Willard Hotel and therefore, he concluded, the decision to destroy King was caused by the Bureau officials’ reaction to their feelings about King’s personal life. [5]

Evidently, Garrow, in failing to note the far more momentous “other” significant event that had occurred in that timeframe (after the wiretaps went on in October)—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy one month before that December meeting—caused him to misidentify the real reason for the decision to simultaneously “up the ante” by deciding to “destroy King.”  It was because he, like so many other authors, prognosticators, news reporters and their broadcasting or newspaper superiors, failed to realize the significance of that event, misled as they were by the new president and the government as a whole into thinking it was merely the result of the actions of a “lone nut.”

The only realistic explanation for the sea change in the FBI’s campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. starting in December, 1963—after evaluating all of the possible reasons presented by author Garrow—is that it was all due to the only material thing that had changed, dramatically changed, in the weeks before that fundamental revision in FBI policy, was the assassination of the president.  That stupendous change had automatically reordered the priorities of much of the government, not the least of which was its primary investigative agency, the FBI.  And just as it became refocused (from one of facilitation of the “executive change” to one of leading its cover-up), so too did it modify its long list of other “action items.”  The focus became one, as Mr. Garrow correctly discerned, of the destruction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

From January on, throughout 1964, the Bureau memoranda show that Hoover and Sullivan, and all his men in the Domestic Intelligence Division (or “Division Five”) had become obsessed with Dr. King’s sexual behavior and the apparent need to record more of it, as well as the need to circulate all of it to the White House (i.e. Johnson) and selected other men in congress or other federal agencies and journalists. The focus was reflected by the extensive efforts to get bugs installed before his trips to different locations, such as Hawaii, then Los Angeles, and afterwards, in their reports of a lack of “developments” in Hawaii.[6]   But that failure was quickly restored by their success in the reports from Los Angeles, with the communications then reflecting “unconcealed joy” and the gloating pleasure that several agents expressed about the notion of Robert Kennedy reading the files and reports of the surveillance.  The references to “communist subversives” had nearly disappeared from these reports, except for a handwritten afterthought, “in view of his association with Communists,” that had been inserted into a July, 1964 memo indicating that more information on King’s personal activities was needed; as biographer Garrow noted, it “was only the most sadly amusing example of this veneer.”[7]

As the events of 1964-67 continued to play out—the temporary forced “collaboration” between King and Johnson; the repeated incidents of race riots throughout that period in many major cities’ ghettos; Dr. King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize and the angst that that created throughout the FBI, thanks to its leadership; and the diametrically opposed courses that King and Johnson were to take during that period—the increasing talk that King might one day run for the presidency became one of Johnson’s and Hoover’s worst nightmares. 

It might have started out for Hoover and Johnson to be a choice of whether to “‘discredit,’ ‘neutralize,’ or ‘expose’ King,” as posited by author Garrow, but, given their combined histories of criminal conduct and increasingly brazen and diabolical plotting to bend the arc of history to conform to their respective agendas, it is much more realistic to deduce that they had reached a mutual conclusion: That their only choice was to physically “destroy” their nemesis, Martin Luther King Jr.  Or, as Johnson liked to euphemistically put it when he pegged someone for murder, according to his closest criminal partners, “He has to go.” 

David Garrow’s Capitulation to “The Dark Side”

Unfortunately, author Garrow’s partial revelations of Hoover’s malfeasance and assorted criminal acts abruptly stopped with King’s assassination.  He did not address the closing episode of King’s life; there is little reflection evident as to the forces which came to bear on his murder in Memphis within Garrow’s book, despite the intensive examination of them up until that point.  There were no references to James Earl Ray, Eric Galt, or any of Ray’s other aliases within his 1981 book, yet he portrayed himself as the expert in later interviews on the subject. In not connecting anything he had examined up to 1968 with what happened next, he created a major “disconnect.” It was as if all of the lawlessness of the premier law enforcement agency in the United States stopped early in 1968.   But it didn’t, it was just getting up to speed and would continue for many more years.  This point was referenced [within my book] in Chapter 3, where we cited the revelations made by whistleblower Frederick Whitehurst, as noted in the 2004 book The FBI & American Democracy: A Brief Criminal History by Athan Theoharis.  Some indications of its continued existence still “leak out” on occasion.

Mr. Garrow acknowledged that Johnson was behind Hoover’s continuing smear efforts because he had exploited the perquisite of receiving fresh files—the recordings and transcripts thereof—directly from Mr. DeLoach, who routinely delivered them personally to the White House.[8]  Garrow also noted Rev. Abernathy’s lament that the SCLC did not hold Johnson responsible for Hoover’s activities because they had considered Johnson as a friend. He wrote that Abernathy and his associates were caught unaware of the fact that the Bureau’s conduct was actively backed by the president himself.[9]

Unfortunately for him, however, Garrow’s place in history will forever carry an asterisk because of how he criticized the King family for its “ignorance” in not accepting the official government story.  Despite everything else he had discovered—even “how hostile the Johnson White House was toward King,” and LBJ’s fear that King might run for the presidency, either in 1968 or some future election,[10] it was still insufficient to cause him to recognize the intensity of Johnson’s and Hoover’s obsession to “neutralize” Dr. King.  That apparently led him to minimize the possibility that either of them had anything to do with murdering King; evidently, he gave them both a magnum “benefit of the doubt” and presumed that—despite the very facts of their combined vitriol, some of which he had personally chronicled—they would accomplish King’s “destruction” through more conventional extra-legal methods, like merely besmirching his reputation. 

Garrow’s naiveté was possibly due to how he had evidently fallen for the lies placed in the early books by authors [William Bradford] Huie, [Gerold] Frank, and [George] McMillan, never admitting his own ignorance about Ray.  In a taped segment on MSNBC’s television show Time and Again, broadcast on April 3, 1997, he asserted: “I think it’s very sad that the King family and the King children are so uninformed of the history that they could be open to believing that Mr. Ray was not involved in Dr. King’s assassination.  Mr. Ray was someone of long-standing racist, segregationist affiliations [sic], and as the House Assassinations Committee very correctly [sic] concluded nineteen years ago, Mr. Ray was probably the trigger-man for a wider segregationist [sic] conspiracy to kill Dr. King.”[11]   These multiple errors belie an uncritical, gullible mindset ill-befitting a scholar who had previously demonstrated an evaluative ability that seems to have since disappeared.

But even more sad than that is Mr. Garrow’s willingness—despite everything he had reported about the FBI’s many illegal and unconstitutional efforts to destroy Dr. King—to not accept the facts presented in the many books written by honest and truth-seeking researchers. His conclusions belie his complete unawareness of the numerous anomalies present in the “Ray did it as a lone nut” canard as outlined throughout [my book].  Like many others beguiled by the authors of the FBI’s fictions (which were part and parcel of the brazen attacks on Dr. King that he himself chronicled), as evidenced by his own ill-informed statements, suggests that he based his opinions upon the easy to read quasi-fictional books. 

Dexter King’s response to Garrow’s comments in the video referenced began with:

“The fact of the matter is, I guess I’m really not surprised, because Mr. Garrow, for whatever reason, is doing his job, and frankly he is an agent for those forces of suppression, who do not want this truth to come forward . . . I think what is really appalling here is that Mr. Garrow has built a platform on exploiting my father’s legacy; if it were not for my family, Mr. Garrow would not have gained access to my father’s papers and many other things that have given him a platform to speak out . . . I met Mr. Ray, he is not a segregationist, I’ve met segregationists, this man was not born in the South as the media portrayed at the time, the fact of the matter is he was born in Illinois, I met his family, they are not people who strike me as racists; the fact of the matter is that this man was set up, and we need to deal with this so that we can move on.  The American public deserves the right to know, and certainly the family of the victim deserves the right to know what happened to their loved one.  We need to stop living in denial in this country and once and for all face this injustice.”[12] (Emphasis added).

It wasn’t until after still another, second, decade that a greater part of Hoover’s demented reign started to be revealed, when several books were published in the early 1990s which took it to another level, including those listed in the Bibliography of this one, by such authors as Anthony Summers, Curt Gentry, Mark North and Athan Theoharis.  Later in that decade, the first of William F. Pepper’ books brought more information to the fore, causing most people who were paying attention to come to the realization that the men running the FBI during the entire period were all contaminated by Hoover’s and Tolson’s chronic criminality.  Their unscrupulous disregard of the very laws they were responsible for enforcing can no longer be denied, though many people still prefer to “let sleeping dogs lie.”  

_____________________[End of excerpt] ____________________

David Garrow’s latest assault on the King family will not do permanent damage to the legacy of Dr. King in the memory of the public generally, for the reasons noted above regarding the personal indiscretions of other historic and contemporaneous leaders.  For most of the world knows that his real imprint as the iconic civil rights leader was honorable, noble, worthy and good, though long overdue by the time he left us.  It is the epitome of irony that it was J. Edgar Hoover and Lyndon B. Johnson — whose interests were the opposite, oriented to their own personal objectives of political power and financial wealth — who had held him at bay for at least a decade. Future generations will be able to look back on this short sliver of history without the blinders created by the mythmakers and replicated by authors such as Garrow and others who seem to be tethered to the Deep State’s jaded agenda.  The artifacts of that faux “historical” account cannot be sustained forever if Shakespeare’s maxim, “the truth will out,” has any merit: It’s only a matter of time.


[1] Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.. p. 157

[2] Ibid. pp. 151-155

[3] Branch, Taylor, At Canaan’s Edge, p. 97

[4] Garrow, p. 158

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid. pp. 159-160

[8] Garrow, p. 168

[9] Ibid. p. 169

[10] Ibid. p. 207

[11] See You Tube video “Martin Luther King’s son Dexter meets James Earl Ray, Patsy-Assassin of his father,” @ 5:25 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wHQZ1zyVxY)

NOTE: The use of the three “sic” notes in this sentence are points that have been addressed within the book, all of which relate to the fact that the assertions of Garrow have been categorically refuted – most importantly, that the HSCA did not find that Ray was a racist, when in fact it stated that he was not a racist; it essentially proved that the charge originally made by Huie was “made up” and that was the one thing of value produced by the HSCA in their King subcommittee investigation. (See HSCA Report, pp. 328-330). Unfortunately they did not unravel all the other alleged “motives” (i.e. if Ray was not a racist, then he was not a hater, stalker or murderer of MLK). Nor did they make the point emphatically enough and the MSM ignored that fact.

[12] Ibid., @ 5:50 – 9.00 on timeline

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