Greeley, Colo., school board member Brett Reese doesn’t understand why anyone would think him a racist just because he repeatedly broadcast a mean-spirited and one-sided text trashing the character of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a presentation adored by white supremacists everywhere.
For more than two weeks around the Jan. 17 official celebration of King’s birthday, Reese broadcast a 1994 essay by Kevin Alfred Strom called “The Beast as Saint: The Truth About ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’” on KELS 104.7 FM The Pirate, a low-power radio station Reese owns. The commentary describes King as a plagiarizer, “America-hating communist” and sexual degenerate who didn’t deserve a national holiday. Reese has marked the holiday in the same manner for three years.
Reese has said he aired Strom’s essay not for racial reasons, but only as an exercise in free speech, critical thinking and debate.
This year, Reese’s annoyed fellow board members passed a resolution supporting the King holiday and calling the editorial “inflammatory and detrimental to our district and community.” Greeley’s mayor condemned the broadcasts, and some advertisers withdrew support for the station, according to the Greeley Tribune. But the controversy hardly chastened Reese; rather, he increased the broadcasts of the essay from twice to four times daily.
Condemnation of Reese’s broadcasts reached such intensity that Strom himself came to his defense – to Reese’s apparent chagrin. In an E-mail interview with the Greeley Tribune, Strom advised Reese to “never give up one millimeter of your precious right to free speech.”
Strom has extensive racist, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi connections. He was a member, and later head, of the National Vanguard, the publishing arm of the white supremacist National Alliance headed by William Pierce – whom the Southern Poverty Law Center described as America's most important neo-Nazi for some three decades until his death in 2002. Strom’s history with Pierce and the white nationalist movement were detailed in a book by Strom's ex-wife, Kirsten Kaiser.
Reese rejected Strom’s endorsement. “I’m trying to explain the truth. Facts are facts, and truth is truth, whether it came from a white supremacist website or the Black Panther website.”
But by treating Strom’s essay as settled fact, Reese shows a palpable disinterest in separating fact from fiction. If the tract’s title isn’t evidence enough, Strom plainly states his agenda in the essay’s introduction: “In many countries, revered national heroes were excised from the history books, or their real deeds were distorted to fit Communist ideology, and Communist killers and criminals were converted into official ‘saints.’ Holidays were declared in honor of the beasts who murdered countless nations. Did you know that much the same process has occurred right here in America? … Let's take a look at [King,] this modern-day plastic god.” Not the typical preamble to a sober, scholarly exposition.
Strom’s one-sided screed is a hash of facts, exaggerations, unsubstantiated or disproven allegations and dubious government “intelligence” from an FBI that under long-time director J. Edgar Hoover had unquestionably undertaken a mission to destroy the civil rights leader’s reputation with embarrassing revelations and, if necessary, fabricated evidence. Strom’s approach to King’s legacy is akin to arguing that Thomas Jefferson doesn’t deserve a place in the pantheon of American heroes because of his suspected decades-long affair with his one-time slave Sally Hemings, with whom he purportedly bore several children, or that Benjamin Franklin’s place in history should be vacated because Franklin himself admitted to so many liaisons with prostitutes and “women of low character” that he considered it a miracle that he never acquired any diseases.
Posthumously, it was determined that King used large sections of published work in his academic writings without crediting the authors. Strom notes, as have other authors, that several of King’s close friends and advisors were known to have communist sympathies, but ignores that no evidence was ever uncovered – despite exhaustive FBI efforts – that linked King or his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to communist organizations or their money.
Multiple sources have attested to King’s sexual proclivities. They include his long-time chief deputy, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, in his 1989 autobiography, “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,” and former Kentucky State Sen. Georgia Davis Powers, who recounted an ongoing intimate relationship with King in her 1995 autobiography “I Shared the Dream.” But once again, Strom mixes fact with unsubstantiated conjecture – for example, that King brutalized women, and paid for sex with SCLC money.
There is considerable irony in Strom calling King a sexual degenerate: Strom is a Virginia-registered sex offender. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, and served 23 months in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release. He also was charged with attempting to coerce a 10-year-old girl into a sexual relationship by sending her anonymous gifts, driving past her house and writing lyrics to love songs declaring his desire to marry her. U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon threw out those charges for lack of evidence of actual solicitation of sex – but added that Strom, then in his early 50s, had engaged in questionable conduct.
“I think there is overwhelming evidence that [Strom] was sexually drawn to this child, and was obsessing over this child,” Moon said.