‘Selma’ distorts the truth about LBJ

Selma is a powerful movie, reviewers write. But it distorts the truth about Lyndon Johnson to create drama, writes Richard Cohen in the Washington Post.

Before I came to dislike the movie “Selma,” I was deeply moved by it. Twice it brought me to tears. A crane shot of Martin Luther King Jr. leading thousands of demonstrators over the Edmund Pettus Bridge was one such moment, and so was the vicious attack on John Lewis — bravely, steadfastly walking into the beating he knew was coming. Today, Lewis is a member of Congress. Forever, he’ll be an American hero.

But the movie smears John to create dramatic tension, writes Cohen.

. . .  “Selma” asserts that King had to persuade and pressure a recalcitrant Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The movie also depicts Johnson authorizing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to smear King and — as King himself suspected — try to drive him to suicide. It is a profoundly ugly moment.

But a bevy of historians say it never happened. It was Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general, who authorized the FBI’s bugging of King’s hotel rooms.

Kennedy, still a “liberal icon,” doesn’t appear in the movie.

Johnson “considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him,” writes Joseph A. Califano Jr., a former aide, in a Post op-ed.

“Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights” and urged King to “find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration,” writes Califano. The LBJ-MLK telephone conversation on the subject is available on the LBJ Presidential Library Web site.

Students will watch Selma to understand the civil rights movement. They’ll believe its version of history.

Williams: ‘Corrupt’ leaders ignore bad schools

“Corrupted” by teachers union money, black leaders who spoke at Saturday’s March on Washington failed to speak out against bad schools, charged Fox News contributor Juan Williams on “The O’Reilly Factor.” The march commemorated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

King would “stand up and act against bad schools that are condemning these kids to useless lives because they never have an opportunity to climb that ladder of upward mobility,” Williams said. “And the civil rights challenge of this generation is education, and Dr. King would never allow anybody to buy his silence, to buy him off, to sell out the kids and that’s what’s happening right now.”

Teachers’ unions have given tens of thousands of dollars to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and NAACP because “they don’t want those civil rights leaders to ever stand up and say yes to charter schools, yes to vouchers, yes to school reform,” Williams charged.

Civil rights leaders are “selling out,” Williams said. “And that is corruption and it’s corruption of a great movement.”

Duncan invited staff to Sharpton rally

Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited 4,000 department employees to attend the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” rally, organized to counter Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palin’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial, reports the Washington Examiner.

Although the e-mail does not violate the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from participating in political campaigns, Education Department workers should feel uneasy, said David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute.

“It sends a signal that activity on behalf of one side of a political debate is expected within a department. It’s highly inappropriate … even in the absence of a direct threat,” Boaz said. “If we think of a Bush cabinet official sending an e-mail to civil servants asking them to attend a Glenn Beck rally, there would be a lot of outrage over that.”

Brookings Institution director Russ Whitehurst, a Department of Education program director from 2001 to 2008, said, “Only political appointees would have been made aware of such an event and encouraged to attend.”

Sharpton’s event, held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, featured praise of President Obama and jabs at the Tea Party, the Examiner reports.

“[Conservatives] think we showed up [to vote for Barack Obama] in 2008 and that we won’t show up again. But we know how to sucker-punch, and we’re coming out again in 2010,” Sharpton said.

In his remarks, Duncan called education “the civil rights issue of our generation.”

Education Department spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya defended Duncan’s decision to speak at the rally and ask department employees to attend. “This was a back-to-school event,” she said.


President Obama will give his second annual Back to School speech on Tuesday, Sept. 14. It will be available for broadcast in schools and online. Last year’s speech raised a lot of fuss, culminating in a big fizzle as Obama told students to work hard in school.