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‘Politically, they had to do that’

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. defended his father’s decision while US attorney general to wiretap civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., describing the move as a “political” calculation.

The longshot 2024 candidate told Politico during a campaign stop in Atlanta on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day that “there was good reason” for Robert F. Kennedy to authorize FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s wiretap.

“J. Edgar Hoover was out to destroy Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement and Hoover said to them that Martin Luther King’s chief was a Communist,” Kennedy Jr., 69, told the outlet.

“My father gave permission to Hoover to wiretap them so he could prove that his suspicions about King were either right or wrong,” he added. “I think, politically, they had to do it.”

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. defended his father’s decision as US attorney general to wiretap civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The longshot 2024 candidate during a campaign stop in Atlanta on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day told Politico that “there was good reason” for Robert F. Kennedy to let the FBI wiretap the preacher. AP

The remarks clash with the environmental lawyer and vaccine skeptic’s effort to cast himself as an unflinching champion of Americans’ civil liberties — and critic of federal intelligence agencies who abuse their authority.

RFK Jr. has previously said the CIA was behind the assassination of his uncle, former President John F. Kennedy, and argued that the man convicted of murdering his father, Palestinian terrorist Sirhan Sirhan, is innocent and should be paroled.

Last May, Kennedy Jr. told Fox News host Sean Hannity that the Warren Commission, which investigated the 35th president’s assassination on the orders of his successor, Lyndon Johnson, covered up key evidence.

“My father gave permission to Hoover to wiretap them so he could prove that his suspicions about King were either right or wrong,” Kennedy Jr. said. “I think, politically, they had to do it.” Bettmann/CORBIS

“When Congress, 10 years later, investigated the crime with much more evidence than the Warren Commission had at its disposal, Congress found that, yeah, it was a plot. It was a conspiracy [and] there were multiple people involved,” RFK Jr. said at the time.

In June 2018, the younger Kennedy told the Washington Post that he visited Sirhan in prison after reviewing police and autopsy reports of his father’s assassination and speaking with several witnesses, saying he was “disturbed by what I had seen.” 

“I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father,” he said at the time. “My father was the chief law-enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

Under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Hoover’s FBI targeted Martin Luther King Jr. through its domestic counterintelligence program but was unable to substantiate communist ties. Everett/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while driving through Dallas in the presidential motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, while Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4, 1968.

Two months and one day later, on June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy — then a senator from New York — was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after claiming victory in California’s Democratic presidential primary.

Under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Hoover’s FBI targeted Martin Luther King Jr. through its domestic counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) but was unable to substantiate any communist ties.

Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following a campaign speech in June 1968 during his run for the presidency. AP

While acknowledging that Hoover was “a racist” and likely would have gotten the ax if JFK had won re-election in 1964, Kennedy Jr. expressed less suspicion about the motives of the FBI eavesdropping on MLK Jr.

At the time of the Baptist minister’s ascent, the Kennedy administration was “making big bets on King, particularly in organizing the March on Washington,” RFK Jr. also told Politico.

“They were betting not only the civil rights movement but their own careers. And they knew that Hoover was out to ruin King,” he said, pointing out that the man of the cloth associated with several former Communists.

A November New York Times poll showed Kennedy Jr. roughly 10 percentage points behind Trump and President Biden in a hypothetical three-way race for six battleground states. AP

Kennedy Jr. added that he believed his uncle privately informed Martin Luther King Jr. about the FBI’s wiretaps.

He headlined his Sunday campaign event alongside Angela Stanton-King, an ex-GOP congressional candidate in Georgia who received a pardon from former President Donald Trump in February 2020 but now works for the Kennedy Jr. campaign.

A November New York Times poll showed Kennedy roughly 10 percentage points behind Trump and President Biden in a hypothetical three-way race for six battleground states.

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Written by SaleemBaloch

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