Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy was wrong when she called Martin Luther King Jr. a “terrible” man, but she was reacting to misinformation that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, fed to her, former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young says.
In a two-hour special Tuesday night, ABC News aired tapes of interviews that Jackie gave to historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the months after her husband’s assassination.
In one, the former first lady described King as “tricky” and a “phony,” and recounted that she had been told that the civil rights icon laughed during her husband’s funeral.
“He made fun of Cardinal [Richard] Cushing [who presided over John F. Kennedy's funeral] and said that he was drunk at it," Jackie Kennedy said in the interview. "And things about they almost dropped the coffin and — well, I mean, Martin Luther King is really a tricky person."
She said that permanently soured her on King. "I just can't see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, 'That man's terrible.'"
Young, a former mayor of Atlanta, countered that is no way MLK would have cracked jokes during President Kennedy’s funeral.
“It would take an awfully callous and inhumane person to make jokes in a situation like that. I mean, that had to be a lie,’ Young told WABE
ABC said Mrs. Kennedy’s opinion of King was highly influenced by Hoover, who had told her that the married pastor was planning a sex party.
Young believes that Hoover, who was anxious to discredit King, also told the former first lady lies about MLK’s reaction to her husband’s funeral.
Young said he met Jackie Kennedy several years later, and she expressed no animosity toward King.
“She never had anything bad to say about Dr. King,” he told WABE. “I would hope by the time I talked to her, which was 1977-78, she would have understood a lot better some of the games the FBI was playing.”
Young told MyFoxAtlanta that the civil rights leader had a lot of respect for JFK.
“I know he had a great deal of admiration for John F. Kennedy,” Young said.
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