The naysayers at Fox News have been working overtime to cripple the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) by inventing controversies, spinning nightmares, and just outright lying. Then, when it seems that they have traversed a line that extinguishes all manner of decency, they manage to go a step further.
In yesterday’s episode of America’s Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer introduced a debate segment with a putrid old clip of Joe the Plumber (whose name is not Joe and is not a plumber) and the deliberately misrepresented remarks of then-candidate Obama talking about the benefits of growing the middle class. At the time, Fox News twisted his words into a socialist credo of redistribution of wealth when all he was saying was the same thing folks like Ronald Reagan said about a rising tide lifting all boats.
The segment (video below) featured right-wing radio talker Mike Slater who took liberties with the words of Martin Luther King from his iconic essay, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In an effort to condemn the egalitarian aspirations of making health care accessible to all American citizens, Slater mangled King’s words saying…
“Here’s the bottom line. The ends do not justify the means. Martin Luther King, Jr. said ‘You cannot achieve a moral end — helping people — through an immoral means — taking from people.’ The left’s solution is always to take from people to help another group. That’s lazy.”
What anyone familiar with King’s famous essay will immediately recognize is that Slater’s butchered version of the quote where he references “helping people” and “taking from People” do not exist in the original. What King actually said was…
“I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.”
King was reiterating his long held belief in nonviolence and the need to maintain that in the face of increasing hostility from bigots and misguided southern law enforcement officials. It certainly had nothing to do with Slater’s skewed characterization that it is somehow wrong for government policies to help people. Taken literally, Slater’s view would eliminate Social Security, public schools, fire departments, child nutrition programs, and more.
Slater’s intentional distortion is even more ironic when you know that King’s next line was “But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.” King might as well have been speaking directly to Slater who was using the moral ideas expressed by King for the immoral purpose of deception and advocacy of the sort of selfishness that King despised.
Unfortunately, Slater’s debate opponent, Leslie Marshall, was unprepared for Slater’s misquoting of King. She nevertheless responded earnestly saying “I think MLK would be rolling in his grave. If a child has cancer and they couldn’t get insurance, I don’t think that’s immoral, I think it’s quite the opposite to provide that.”
For the record, King was an advocate of health care access for all. In 1966 he told a conference in Chicago that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Had Slater and Fox News made that quote available to their viewers they would have gone farther toward realizing the moral ends of which King spoke. But true to form, Fox was focused solely on advancing their own rightist agenda that only benefits the privileged.