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Romney the Elder and Martin Luther King Jr.

Presidential contender Mitt Romney's father supported the civil rights movement. (AP).

By Michael D. Shear
In his address to the nation about faith, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney declared that "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King."

Now, press reports are questioning the truth of Romney's statement about his father's marching with the famous civil rights leader. And Romney's staff is pushing back hard, insisting that the statement is true.

The Boston Phoenix newspaper wrote Wednesday that they could find no evidence that the elder Romney ever participated in a march with King. Mitt Romney uses his father's involvement in civil rights to illustrate his commitment to the issue now.

The Washington Post's David Broder wrote a book in 1967, The Republican Establishment, which said that George Romney "has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit and he is on record in support of full-coverage Federal open-housing legislation."

Broder, reporting today from Manchester, New Hampshire, said he does not recall, after 40 years, any more details about the march. Broder said he spent "a lot of time" covering the then-governor of Michigan before writing the book about the GOP with Stephen Hess.

A campaign spokesman cited Broder's book as evidence that Romney and King marched together in Grosse Pointe in 1963. Kevin Madden also wrote in an email that "George Romney had a long record of supporting Martin Luther King, Jr. He attended his funeral in 1968 and believed his death was "a great national tragedy."

Another campaign spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said today that the younger Romney was speaking "figuratively" when he said he "saw" his father march with King. Fehrnstrom offered an example to explain: "It's like if I said 'I can see Mike Huckabee as president.'"

Perhaps not the best example.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 20, 2007; 12:31 PM ET
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