Shout-Out to the Terrible Florida Politicians Quoting Martin Luther King Today

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
At the time of his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. was a socialist who believed in equalizing pay, ending the American criminal justice system, and both freeing black people and uniting lower-class Americans of all races. He loved unions and did not like so-called white, moderate liberals, whom he once said were black America's "great stumbling block" toward freedom and equality.

In other words: If he were alive today, he probably would have hated all of the bullshit, racist Florida politicians quoting him today. And they likely would have despised him right back.

Of course, that hasn't stopped the state's most self-serving assholes from guiltlessly quoting King's tamest lines in an effort to pretend they don't spend every waking hour trying to jail black people and immigrants, deport the parents of small children for no reason, prevent ex-cons from voting, and take food stamps away from the nation's poorest people. For terrible politicians, January 15 is a day to rip King's tamest quotes out of context and pretend his calls for "freedom" mean freedom from, like, federal income taxes.

If New Times stands for anything, it's moral accountability. So every single one of the following people quoting King on his birthday today can go ahead and fuck off — nonviolently, of course.

Gov. Rick Scott
In addition to the obvious reasons King would have despised Scott — he's a white-collar criminal who stole billions of dollars in Medicaid funding for the poor and sick and then won the governorship by stoking outright xenophobia — he spends a not-insignificant amount of time denying former felons, mostly people of color, the right to vote. Voting rights might have been the thing King cared about most when it came to racial equality. Scott sits atop a vast voting-disenfranchisement machine that prevents one in five black Floridians from choosing their own politicians.

Note that Scott chose a nebulous quote about "doing what's right," not King's 1957 "Give Us the Ballot" speech, in which he said the "denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote."

King also once called injustices in health care either "inhuman" or "inhumane" (the historical record isn't 100 percent clear), which means he would have despised Scott's decision not to extend Medicaid to more people while in office. That also brings us to this guy:

Sen. Marco Rubio
Rubio happily voted to repeal Obamacare and for a tax bill that both distributed wealth upward and cut the legs out from beneath the country's already fragile and underfunded health-care system. (Rubio also let slip weeks ago that he and the GOP plan to tear apart the nation's social safety net.) King would have turned 89 today and still been out in the street protesting the passage of every one of Rubio's harebrained Obamacare-repeal packages.

Sen. Bill Nelson
Remember that quote we mentioned a bit ago about how King hated "moderates"? The full quote, from his famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," is as follows:
First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
'Sup, Bill Nelson? Remember when you said it's not the right "time" to fight for single-payer health care?

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
See above.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo
See above, Part 2. Is there any current "moderate" more paternalistic, didactic, and annoying than Curbelo? The Miami/Florida Keys representative has voted for pretty much every draconian health-care/tax proposal pitched this year while lecturing everyone on Twitter about how tolerant and "bipartisan" he is.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Diaz-Balart is invoking King's legacy while at the same time being literally too scared to speak out about Donald Trump's own racism, which he witnessed.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran
Corcoran's entire proposal for the 2018 legislative session is based upon the idea that brown immigrants are terrifying and should be held indefinitely in detention centers or deported. Unlike most of the other people we've quoted above, this is just obvious, transparent racism as opposed to some coded, dog-whistle-y, class-struggle-based attack on the welfare state.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez

Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez reflects on the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man whose power of speech and ability to call attention to injustices cemented himself in United States history. Because of his work fighting for civil rights and equality, Dr. King continues to serve as an inspiration to Americans and people throughout the world. May we never forget his words: "Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” It is my hope that all Miamians will reflect on Dr. King's work today and build a finer community and a better world for future generations.

A post shared by Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez (@mayorgimenez) on

Gimenez in January 2017 became the first big-city mayor in America to capitulate to Donald Trump's anti-immigrant "sanctuary city" crackdown. He ignored sit-ins, nonviolent protests, and a hunger strike in order to comply with Trump's order. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man who Coretta Scott King in 1986 said was diametrically opposed to everything her husband stood for, then visited Miami to praise Gimenez.

Over the past year, the Miami Herald reports, Gimenez's jails have turned over one immigrant per day to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Gubernatorial Candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis
Either Adam Putnam, a Rick Scott crony, or Ron DeSantis, a Trump acolyte, will likely win the Florida governorship in 2018. They both hate immigrants and love capitalism — Putnam also transparently hates Colin Kaepernick's kneeling NFL protest, something we're pretty darn sure King would have cosigned, to say the least.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle
Are we talking about the same Martin Luther King Jr. here? King stood for "respect for our laws"? Behave "accordingly as Dr. King preached"? Of all the bullshit statements here, this one might actually be the most egregiously incorrect one, and it comes from a Democrat no less. Of course, Rundle is not only a Democrat but also the county's state attorney, one of the people most responsible for putting poor black and brown Floridians in prison for small amounts of drugs. She's a central cog in a criminal justice system King despised and is best known for letting county police officers kill whomever they please, including the likely boiled-to-death Darren Rainey, with impunity.

Literally Any Police Department
He, uh, definitely hated you guys too.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.