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Published on July 29th, 2017 | by Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid



Originally published on 5/11/98

Theodore Pappas has written a piece for Chronicles magazine that should be required reading for every journalism student and journalist. It tells the story of how the media, including book publishers, tried to suppress the story of how famed civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King committed plagiarism – stealing material from other people and claiming it as his own. For his role in bringing this to the public’s attention, Pappas says he received three death threats, one left hook to the jaw and 40 rejections from 40 publishers in 40 months. This is quite a record. When he finally found a publisher, the book’s first edition was sold out. It carried the title, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Plagiarism Story.

Pappas recounts his effort in publicizing the story in the May issue of Chronicles magazine, where he serves as managing editor. Pappas was the first journalist who exposed, with parallel quotations, how segments of King’s Ph.D dissertation had been copied from a previous work. He estimates that 66 percent of King’s dissertation was plagiarized. On top of revelations about King’s womanizing, the plagiarism allegations served to demonstrate that while King postured as a paragon of moral virtue, he was in reality a scoundrel. This is not something that a lot of people wanted to hear.

The Wall Street Journal, considered by some a conservative newspaper, heard the story was breaking and ran its own piece – a whitewash of the charges against King. Even the Journal’s editorial page tried to suppress the significance of the story by insisting that it had to be covered in a "carefully modulated" manner.

Writing in the New Republic magazine, Charles Babington would later reveal that the Washington Post, the New York Times and the New Republic itself all had known the facts about King’s plagiarism but refused to publish them. The Times eventually did cover the issue but in a subsequent editorial suggested that the plagiarism was somehow comparable to a politician using a ghost writer for speeches.
Pappas’s expanded version of the King Plagiarism Story has now been published by Hallberg Publishing Corporation under the title "Plagiarism and the Culture War." Regarding the publishers who rejected his original book and the new edition, Pappas says three of them said any criticism of King would be in "bad taste" because "King isn’t around to defend himself." Pappas notes that such an approach would mean the end of historical studies and scholarship in general. He points out that such an attitude hasn’t stopped various so-called "scholars" and academics from defaming one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Apparently it’s all right to bad-mouth Jefferson; after all, he was a white European male. But King, a black civil rights leader, has to be spared any criticism. This is the double-standard that infects the media today.

Ted Pappas is a serious scholar who had shown bravery and courage. By the way, that left hook that almost hit his jaw was thrown in a bar by an inebriated critic who recognized him from an interview on the barroom TV. The punch missed.

Editor’s Note:

Exhibits You Won’t Find in the New National Museum of African American History and Culture.

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s womanizing, plagiarism, and communist advisers. While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fighter for civil rights and showed unique courage in opposing racism, he has his own serious flaws. The evidence shows that both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby obtained and passed on information about King’s extramarital affairs and womanizing. It was information that had been obtained from FBI wiretaps on King authorized by Bobby himself. The Kennedy brothers, both anti-communist Democrats, were alarmed by King’s communist associations. One of King’s closest advisers was J.H. O’Dell, also known as Hunter Pitts O’Dell. He was a secret member of the Communist Party who would later join Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH. Another King adviser was New York attorney Stanley Levison, who had been involved in Communist Party financial affairs and was helping to arrange funding of the party by Moscow. He had recommended O’Dell to King. Despite his reputation as a moderate, Martin Luther King, Jr. paid tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois, who had joined the CPUSA himself in 1961, at an event sponsored by the Soviet-funded journal Freedomways in New York City. King’s opposition to American involvement in the war against communism in Vietnam was strongly influenced by his communist associations. The facts also show that the famed civil rights leader was a plagiarist who stole material from other people and claimed it as his own.

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