ABC News’ Jan Simmonds reports: Sen. John McCain R-AZ spoke before a crowd of several hundred this morning in the pouring rain outside the Loraine Motel in Memphis, TN, the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Hr was assassinated 40 years ago today, and now home to the National Civil Rights Museum.
Invited to speak by the Southern Christian Leadership Council, McCain was greeted by a smattering of boos from the mostly African American crowd, as he spoke glowingly of the Civil Rights Leader.
McCain reiterated that he now regrets his vote some 25 years ago in the House against the House bill that declared Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday. The bill was cleared by the House in 1983 by a vote of 338-90 before making its way to the Senate, where it passed with a 78-22 vote.
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"We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona," McCain said.
Speaking about the type of man King was, McCain noted that he was not a man who would "flinch from harsh truth".
The Arizona Senator also recalled how he first heard news of Dr. King’s assassination, while captive in Vietnam.
"I remember first learning what had happened here on the fourth of April, 1968, feeling just as everyone else did back home," said McCain. "Only perhaps even more uncertain and alarmed for my country in the darkness that was then enclosed around me and my fellow captives. In our circumstances at the time, good news from America was hard to come by. But the bad news was a different matter, and each new report of violence, rioting, and other tribulations in America was delivered without delay."
"Yet how differently it all turned out," he added. "And if they had been the more reflective kind, our enemies would have understood that the cause of Dr. King was bigger than any one man, and could not be stopped by force of violence."